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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Changeling: Complete Easy Reading Edition

Chapter 1

Kip Miles watched Ms. Hunter enter the classroom with only mild curiosity. Even though he looked perfectly average in the mirror, with brown skin, brown eyes and black hair, it was a dirty family secret that he was far too intelligent. He learned things faster than his classmates in school, enjoyed reading complicated books from old, far too sophisticated authors, and made startling connections between what looked like to his parents completely unrelated things. They were all the symptoms of that peculiar mental illness, the egghead complex, that could get anyone excoriated by the public and virtually unemployable if corporations ever found out. His mother had once begged him to be just a bit dumber, and offered him an endless supply of pot to smoke. Pot was good at reducing intelligence, which in his case would be medically beneficial. But Kip had refused. He hated the smell of pot, and it made his eyes water even when others smoked it in the same room. He couldn't imagine smoking the awful things every day for the rest of his life. But he had to admit his intelligence was a major disability. While everyone else had made plenty of friends, started sleeping around regularly with each other, and genuinely enjoyed the challenge of the course work they were given in school, Kip found everyone and everything tedious. He was sixteen years old, and algebra just wasn't enough. Nor was learning yet again that Columbus was the most evil man who ever lived, except for Hitler, who was even more evil, every year in history. "Many millions of innocent people died because of Hitler and Christopher Columbus. Therefore, everything they believed were the worst possible beliefs, precisely because they believed them. Case closed." Kip was fine with hating Columbus and Hitler alongside everyone else. He deplored the deaths of millions like anyone else. But he wished he could learn something, anything else during a new school year. He had understood Columbus and Hitler were evil by age five, and he really hadn't needed any further proof of the issue since then. As for algebra, he had mastered that by age ten. Intelligence really was a curse. He counted the minutes until he could escape school every day, while everyone else giggled and made out in the hallways between class. The world of dumb people was just so much happier.

"Today I have an announcement," the immaculately dressed Ms. Hunter stood before her podium, adjusting her glasses and taking out her written down speech to read from. Kip slouched back in his chair, putting his feet into the cage that held textbooks in the chair in front of him, and waited. It would probably be something about a field trip to a farm where they could watch 'life in the real world,' and people who did what 'really mattered.' Schools loved mocking any intellectual pursuits, making sure everyone knew that farming was good enough for anyone. It was arrogant to consider anything more valuable than food. And arrogance was the worst crime of all. Kip had no reason to argue with the school about it, obviously food mattered more than anything else, and thus farmers were the most valuable workers imaginable. It was just so boring to literally watch plants grow. Field trips were the worst. Most of the other students paired off and sneaked into the woods. But Kip, even at sixteen, was still a virgin. He hated field trips.

"Due to certain uncivil reactionary retrogrades in our community, the government has been forced to take further action in the interests of world peace and equality. Henceforth all marriages will be arranged by the state, serving the public interest. No longer will individuals be allowed to flaunt their arrogant selfishness by refusing to fit in with the system, which is the only hope of producing a truly just and harmonious world. There is only one race, the human race, and it is time certain recalcitrants learned this fact once and for all.” Ms. Hunter gave a polite cough, staring daggers at the girl in the back row, who spent every day looking out the window, her fist under her chin, with a cold, distant aura that kept everyone from talking to her. Unprecedentedly, she had refused every single boy’s offer to no-fault sex. Kip blushed to remember those cold, despising eyes narrow as she had rejected him. It wasn’t considered polite for a girl to turn down a boy’s offer, because it made a girl sound arrogant, like she was too good to make love with just anyone. Most girls would rather die than be considered arrogant. But Autumn was shameless. She didn’t care what people thought. That was only half the problem.

The other half was the color of her eyes. They were blue. Blue eyes at this day and age were impossible. But there she sat. She had blue eyes, an impossibility after centuries of indiscriminate racial mixing. She had blonde hair, another impossibility after centuries of indiscriminate racial mixing. And she had alabaster skin, a third impossibility after centuries of indiscriminate racial mixing. She was a child of impossibility. A child of those people. Racists who thought their physical features were better than anyone else’s. And even though it wasn’t fair to condemn children for the sins of their parents, she didn’t even have the common courtesy to get a deep tan from the freely available public tanning booths, that could have made her skin at least halfway decent. She could have dyed her hair a proper black, like everyone else’s. She could have worn contacts. But instead she sat, her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders and down her neck, her fair skin so clear veins were visible snaking through her arms, and her bright blue eyes glowing with scornful defiance, like a raptor searching for prey, refusing to look away from anyone who tried to confront her. Maybe her parents made her keep the looks she was born with. In that case, what choice did she have? Autumn Brewnell wasn’t necessarily a racist. She could hate her own body and be the first victim of her parent’s reactionary primitiveness, but be unable to escape their parental authority when it came to her appearance. Kip wanted to think the best of her, so long as he could.

This was because, no matter how much Kip internally condemned her, he was fascinated by the girl in the back row. Autumn rarely spoke. When groups of students gathered to pull her hair and mock her for being arrogant, racist, eggheaded and the product of incest, the only possible way she could still have fair skin and blue eyes, she never replied. She just stared at her classmates with a bored detachment, waiting for the litany of insults to end. She had cried out in pain when one particularly resentful girl had torn out a lock of her hair. But then she had recovered, simply staring at the girl, as if to ask whether she was now satisfied. That translucent porcelain face, that practically revealed her bones underneath, never, ever revealed what she truly thought or felt. Kip wanted to know the answer to that one mystery more than anything else in his life. She was the single not boring entity in school. The single not boring existence he had ever come across in his life. Therefore, so long as Kip could find an excuse for her, he would forgive Autumn Brewnell anything. Even that she turned him down. Even that she turned him down knowing he hadn’t asked anyone else in class -- an honor any other girl should have, would have fallen for. Instincts were instincts after all. Even if no one wanted to be thought of as special, every girl wanted to be considered special by their lover. It was one of the only chances to be unique in life. Kip was sure it would work, that he would succeed where the others had failed. But she had seemed even angrier and more contemptuous of him than anyone else. Like he had disappointed her. Why? He never insulted her or pulled any pranks on her. He didn’t hold her parents’ racism against her and treat her unfairly for sins she never did. It wasn’t fair.

“Furthermore, there are disturbing reports of eggheads who cling to their intelligence as a sign of superiority over their brethren. This dangerous activity must be eliminated once and for all. Everyone knows intelligent people are pied pipers, who use their forked tongues to convince real people who do real things and stick to solid, common sense all sorts of heresies and scandalous falsehoods. Recently, an egghead was overheard to say that “all things weren’t equal, take for instance bugs and people, surely we could admit one was better than the other.” The class gasped. Better was a forbidden word. A vulgar word. A word that meant you could never be employed for life. Better was like the other word. That word couldn’t even be thought, much less spoken. Kip didn’t let his mind dwell on it too long.

“It would be fine if these reactionaries were simply wrong, a tolerant society can allow some measure of foolishness. But they insist on marrying only other intelligent people like themselves, no matter how high we raise the financial penalties and taxes on these families. Even forcing these families to wear blue ovals at all times to let people know they were eggheads who wouldn’t mix with the rest of us hasn’t been enough to deter their deviancy. And using this intelligence, they insist on persuading others, through their sneaky fraudulent tactics they call logic and reason, when everyone knows common sense is the only proper method of argument, to join in their deviancy. This destabilizing force has to end, or the world will never be able to fully embrace the joys of normalcy.” Ms. Hunter took a drink of water and then continued.

“It was the wisdom of our forefathers to realize equality could only ever be realized in a world where marriage served the public interest, and was no longer bound to the chains of private prejudice. For centuries we have tried to use subsidies, awards, persuasion, fines, any voluntary measure we could think of to bring our last vestige of retrogades into the light of day, to banish their awful arrogance and allow them back into human fellowship. We regret to say that they have refused all of our advances, all of our offers, and like cave men insist on living in the past. Well the past is past. Since voluntary measures aren’t enough, and since world peace must happen, and peace will never happen until humans have full and mutual respect for one another, and respect is best proven by mixing of the genes, the only way we can be sure people honestly respect their fellow man, whoever he or she might be, as an equally worthy half of their children’s DNA, the world government has enacted a new law: The Defense of Equality Act. Until every last retrograde has been mixed and remixed, until every last holdout in our society has been blended into a perfect mediocrity, marriage will no longer be subject to choice. Henceforth, everyone’s partners in life will be decided by lottery, the only objective manner of choosing. The future belongs to fairness, not discrimination, and we will take whatever measures are necessary to combat this social poison, this cancer in our midst.” Ms. Hunter finished her speech.

“By lottery?” Julie, a girl in the first row gasped. “But I love Jack. We’d already agreed to marry at eighteen!”

“Don’t blame the government, Julie.” Ms. Hunter said compassionately. “These sorts of freedoms were preserved for centuries, in the hopes the government could peacefully integrate society. They were only forced to this extreme because of certain people. I think you know who is to blame, Julie. I think everyone here knows who is to blame for forcing the government to this extreme.”

The entire class turned to look at blonde haired, blue eyed, white skinned Autumn Brewnell. Julie Lasquelle had a face contorted with hatred. She knew full well who was to blame.

“Freedom must be practiced with responsibility. When children do not show enough responsibility to be trusted to do what is right, their freedom must be taken away, and measures have to be enforced directly. Because of certain people who didn‘t treat their freedom responsibly, we must all lose our freedom. No, the government can’t be blamed when selfish people go their own way. This is all the fault of the retrogrades. Everything has been the fault of the discriminators since the dawn of history. Isn’t that right, class?”

“Yes, Ms. Hunter.” Kip quickly agreed with everyone else. Everyone but Autumn Brewnell, whose nose was flaring, her eyes narrowed, her forehead wrinkled, and her hands balled into fists. Kip stared at her in amazement. She had always agreed in the past. You had to agree with the teacher every time she pointed that out. It was detention otherwise. Detention, and a mark on your permanent record. What was Autumn doing? Kip silently willed her to speak up, quickly, and save herself.

“Isn’t that right, Ms. Brewnell?” Ms. Hunter asked insipidly, a delighted smile breaking out on her face. Finally, finally, divine justice was being visited on this holier-than-thou-trollop. Finally Ms. Brewnell was cracking.

Autumn shot up from her chair, pushing her desk forward in her haste. Her hair flashed behind her in a sinuous wave back and forth. Kip could see her pulse in her throat. Impossibly, her face became a shade of scarlet, as if her skin were that of a chameleon’s instead of a human’s decent brown. Autumn put both of her fists on her desk, leaning forward with a look of pure hatred, no, killing intent, at her teacher. The arc her back made was like a snake in motion.

“I will never marry against my will.” Autumn Brewnell said, her voice shaking with emotions Kip couldn’t begin to fathom. “This means war.”

Kip didn’t know what he was looking at anymore. This girl with hair of molten sunlight, this falcon who flew just by standing, was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She stood like a queen commanding armies, defying her teacher, the class, the law, the world, and everyone’s opinions of her, a living testament to her hatred of the system. And with her invisible legions, queen of her invisible kingdom, she had just declared war on the rest of mankind. Impossible. Is she insane? How could a lone individual declare war? She was going to get arrested!

“Now you’ve said it, Ms. Brewnell.” Ms. Hunter cackled and clapped in triumphant glee. “I knew you were a racist like your filthy parents, but I never thought you’d name yourself a terrorist. You must know all conversations in the classroom are recorded. I’m afraid this is the end for you.” Ms. Hunter hit a button, connecting her to the principal’s office.

“Hello, this is Ms. Hunter, from class 2-b. I’m afraid we have a disciplinary problem. Would you mind summoning the security staff?” The security staff patrolled every modern school, police with full powers, after the incidents of schoolyard fights had markedly increased over the decades. As people became more normal and average, schools had become increasingly impossible to administer, until the new disciplinary measures had been put in place. Now everyone knew to toe the line, or else. The chaos of the past was long past.

“Say you didn’t mean it.” Graham Momba suggested to Autumn, suddenly. “Apologize, quickly! You’re just overwrought. No one’s blaming you. Please just say you were joking and didn’t mean it.” Kip’s hopes soared. Way to go, Graham! Why didn’t I think of that?

Autumn Brewnell just turned her icy blue eyes to Graham and stared. Eventually Graham’s hopeful face melted into consternation, and then his eyes slinked away from her. Stupid girl! Just because we all know you meant it doesn’t mean you can’t apologize! It’s all right to pretend to believe things you don’t for the sake of social harmony! He was only trying to help! This is why no one likes you!

“I’m afraid Ms. Brewnell is an unsalvageable retrograde, Mr. Momba. There’s no point wasting any pity on her. Trash like her are the cause of everything wrong with this world, aren’t they, class?” Ms. Hunter grinned triumphantly at her helpless student.

“Yes, Ms. Hunter.” Kip immediately replied alongside the rest of the class, feeling sick to his stomach. You had to answer yes to that question. It went on your permanent record.

Cops started pouring into the classroom. Ms. Hunter pointed at her quarry and the men leaped at Autumn. She made no move to resist, but they tackled her to the ground anyway, holding her arms so she couldn’t brace her fall. Autumn let out a squeal of pain, and a brief look of panic surrounded her face before she could mask it again with her traditional scornful defiance. They tied her wrists together behind her back, yanked her neck by pulling the back of her hair, and with coarse laughter at the bruises appearing so well against her pale skin pushed her out the classroom door.

Kip Miles realized he was never going to see Autumn again.

Kip Miles estimated it would take fifteen minutes or so for the principal to assess the gravity of Autumn's offense, and another fifteen minutes or so for police from outside to drive to school, pick her up, and take her away. Though the accused had all sorts of rights, this was an open and shut case. The girl had clearly announced a plot to commit treason against the state, in front of everyone, in front of a video camera. The trial would be short and simple. Though the death penalty had been banned long ago, there was no probation for enemies of the state. Autumn was sixteen years old, but that was old enough to be tried as an adult in the case of serious crimes, which included all political offenses. The laws had no mercy for her type. Neither did juries, or judges. Autumn was essentially dead to the outside world. Odds were her parents and siblings would be arrested too, and their home searched for evidence of a conspiracy to commit treason, now that Autumn had alerted the government to the threat. Guilt by association was a classic deterrent to political offenders, but it was also almost always accurate. People didn't come to aberrant conclusions in vacuums. They always had some sort of support network that secretly agreed with them, to one extent or another. Tracing treason through that network was the quickest and easiest way to net all the culprits in one sweep. Just like antibiotics had to be taken so thoroughly that nothing survived, or else the disease would simply reassert itself in greater strength later, political dissidents had to be traced back to their roots, and those roots had to be uprooted permanently, or the problem would simply reemerge in the next generation.

Kip understood the logic. Ordinarily, he would have agreed with it. But he wasn't in an ordinary state of mind. He had been transfixed by Autumn's pose, her eyes, her fury, and that flowing blonde hair, until he couldn't tell up from down anymore. All he knew was this: Autumn was beautiful. He wanted to see her again. He didn't want her to disappear. He wanted to know the mysteries behind that pale detached mask of a face she wore. Who was she? Why did she act so differently from everyone else? What did she think about when she stared out the window? She was the only thing he hadn't understood instantly in his life, and then been bored to death repeating day and night every year at home, at church and at school.

One of the curses of intelligence was a heightened sense of curiosity. It made you think about things you shouldn't, and want to know things that only caused trouble. He didn't like his curiosity, he hadn't meant to become fascinated by this exotic looking creature from a zoo or an old history book, but even so curiosity possessed him. He couldn't get rid of it. If Kip just let Autumn disappear, without ever getting her to answer his questions, he would regret that decision forever. It would dominate the rest of his life. He had condemned her as filth and trash, alongside all of his classmates, before she was taken away. If he left things at that, that would be her last memory of him in her life. He didn't want that to be the last impression he left on her. He didn't want that to be the final verdict when it came to what he thought of himself. If he didn't apologize to her for that, he would know himself a coward for the rest of his life. Some things were worse than death. The loathing he felt for himself every second he sat at this desk, knowing Autumn's time was running out, was one of them. He had to do something.

He had to rescue Autumn Brewnell.

Kip Miles raised his hand.

"Yes, Mr. Miles?" Ms. Hunter asked politely. Kip had never caused trouble in class, and so Ms. Hunter had never caused him any trouble in turn. But all of a sudden he hated the woman. He hated her more than he had ever hated anyone in his life. Kip tried to keep the feelings away from his face and voice.

"Sorry, but may I be excused to the restroom?" Kip asked politely.

"Of course, Mr. Miles, take a five minute pass and be quick about it." Ms. Hunter proceeded to forget about him and return to instructing the class, yet again, about the differences between verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Most of the class seemed confused and still didn't get it. Kip had understood the terms the moment they had been defined. When he was six. He was happy to leave this class behind.

Kip was leaving his whole life behind. But he found that he didn't mind that much either. He had never connected with his parents. They had been ashamed of him all his life, because of all of his eggheaded tendencies. They had wrung their hands and wondered aloud how he could possibly be their son, upstanding salt of the Earth common sense folk that they were, right at the middle of the pack. He had apologized to them multiple times as a child, telling them he had never meant to be eggheaded and he wished he wasn't, but that it just happened against his will. But eggheaded was eggheaded. His parents, just like society, had never forgiven him for it. There wasn't anything to return home to. In fact, Kip Miles had never had a life in the first place. This was the first time he had ever done anything because he wanted to, instead of because someone else had told him to do it that way. This was the beginning of his life.

Don't fool yourself, Kip thought wryly. This is also the end of your life. But oh well. It would be a splendid five seconds or so. If those last five seconds of his life were sublime enough, because he could finally be proud of himself for living them. . .then it was lifetime enough. It was lifetime enough to apologize, too. Five seconds was enough time to make a lot of important decisions. For some people, even with five years, or fifty, they still wouldn't have enough time to make even one. That was the difference between courage and cowardice.

Kip walked through the hallway in a daze, letting his memory guide him, not even looking at his surroundings. He needed a weapon. A baseball bat from the equipment storage room would serve. He kicked the locked door until it broke off its hinges. His body had always been fitter and stronger than others. He tried not to let it show in gym class or as a child during recess. Athleticism was a type of arrogance. But he was glad of his strength now. Kip felt like he was a spirit watching his own body move from outside. Who knew he could kick down a door so easily? Who knew he could break into the principal's room with a baseball bat? But here he was, doing it, and his mind drawing a curious blank when it should have been screaming and screeching in panic and doubt. His mind was as clean as a mountain stream. He felt everything and nothing. He was ready to kill and die for a girl who had done nothing but insult and despise him. Well, it wasn't any more foolish than Agamemnon, who had launched a thousand ships to retrieve an adulteress, and sacrificed his own daughter to the gods to make sure his voyage succeeded. If he recalled correctly, Helen had had blonde hair too. Maybe all blondes were witches. That could explain what he was doing. He was definitely bewitched.

Kip Miles took an opaque sack used to carry basketballs and stuck in his bat. Video cameras would alarm people too soon if he walked through the school hallways weapon bared. He slung the sack and two others, each carrying their own sports equipment, over his shoulder and walked nonchalantly out of the shed. Hopefully if he was interrupted or observed by any of the hallway security, they would assume he was on some designated errand, to be carrying so many bags. Kip knew confidence while carrying something heavy was generally a pass to walk anywhere in the adult world.

It had been eight minutes since Autumn had been dragged through the classroom door. Kip kept his stride from speeding up. There was still plenty of time. No one would see him coming. Security would be lax. There would be two guards at most. The first wouldn't know what hit him. The second? Well, he was stronger than most people. He'd handle the second somehow. They would have the key to her handcuffs, unless she was still just bound by a plastic strip. Those could be cut easily enough. Everything was still fine.

Kip nodded politely to anyone he passed in the hall. The others barely saw him, having their own duties to attend to, and assuming Kip was following his. People didn't tend to be original in the modern day. They could be counted on to conform, because everyone was virtually identical in the first place. It should have worked for Kip too. But he had met Autumn. Normalcy was impossible now. Kip knocked on the door to the principal's office, sliding his bat out of his bag and holding it behind his back, while letting the rest of his luggage go. It was do or die. His stomach jumped up towards his throat, a strange numb tingling sensation twisting it into a knot. Nevermind. It's too late to stop now.

One of the guards opened the door in a careless motion, already turning away to look back at the woman he was assigned to restrain. Kip walked into the room, past the doorway, and swung the bat from behind his back all the way to his target's head in one fatal arc. The man's head made a cracking, smushing sound against his bat's wood. If he wasn't dead, he was out of the fight. Kip surveyed the rest of the room for his next opponent. There was only the principal, looking paralyzed with shock. Kip didn't hesitate. The spirit that was outside his body watched Kip walk up to the desk and swing his bat for the man's head. It cracked, and the man slumped into his chair. He hadn't even moved or yelled to sound the alarm. That was good. That gave him time.

"Are you okay?" Kip asked, finally turning to look at his Helen of Troy. His voice was shaking, which was odd, because he still felt perfectly calm. She didn't look any worse for wear than when he had last seen her. That felt like a lifetime ago. But it was probably only ten minutes. What did he expect, a guy with iron knuckles slugging her for the last ten minutes for no reason, with her not resisting her arrest at all? His brain wasn't working right anymore.

"I'm fine. You, however, are insane." Autumn Brewnell replied. Even though she said that, her eyes were different from before. The loathing she had always viewed him with was more muted. Her eyes were wider than normal, like they were trying to see what was in front of her, because she couldn't understand or recognize it as things stood.

Kip shrugged and checked her handcuffs. They were plastic. He searched the room for a pair of scissors, found them, and cut her free.

"I've come to rescue you." Kip explained.

"How?" Autumn asked, rubbing her wrists where the red marks had chafed and cut off her circulation.

"I don't know. I suppose we can threaten a motorist to get out of his car and drive away from there." Kip suggested.

"No one gets away in a car chase. They'll have hundreds of cars after you for this." Autumn replied.

"Me? This is your escape too." Kip protested.

"I haven't done anything to resist arrest yet. This is entirely your doing. If I sit here and wait, they can't accuse me of anything." Autumn looked at Kip levelly.

Kip's mouth fell open, staring at this inexplicable existence. "You can't be serious."

"I suppose I'm not." Autumn sighed. "You have forced my hand, Kip, and I will not thank you for it. If we're going to escape, you will walk behind me, and do exactly what I say. For now, don't ask any questions. You are hopelessly out of your depth right now." The way she said Kip made it clear she felt the name was somewhere between snail and slug.

"Do you have an idea where we can flee? Somewhere we can hide?" Kip asked.

"I said no questions." Autumn reminded him. She walked to the principal's desk and picked up his phone. She didn't seem to see the bloody mess a foot or two from her hand that had been their principle. Autumn dialed a number and waited for someone to pick up.

"Yes, mother? Did you hear the announcement?" Autumn said, her voice suddenly happier than Kip had ever heard in school. Tense, yes. Nervous, yes. But somehow freer. Like a bird that was finally allowed to fly again.

"I'm afraid I made a bit of a scene. I was arrested. Your place will probably be raided next. You might have an hour." Autumn explained.

"Yes mother, I'm sorry." Autumn said. But Kip thought she didn't sound very remorseful. "I just couldn't stand that creature anymore. That was my line in the sand."

Kip waited with increasing worry, standing outside any shooting lane from the door he had closed and locked. Eventually a guard would notice the video camera taping the scene of the carnage live. Or the police who had been called to pick up Autumn would arrive. The girl seemed to be having an ordinary conversation without a care in the world. But maybe that meant she had a plan. Maybe it meant she still had hope. In which case not interrupting her right now was a very good idea.

"A good Samaritan decided to break me free. No, I don't understand it either. No, I don't know him. Yes, it's very strange. So now I need help getting away from here. What can you give me?" Autumn asked. Kip felt a little nervous that she was only using the singular tense for the last two sentences.

"Norn? On the corner of Chesterfield and 5th? Oh, thank you Mom! That would be perfect. Okay, I'll see you at the mill. Love you." Autumn hung up.

"Police!" A voice shouted from behind the door. And then without further ado they sprayed through the wooden door with a machine gun. Kip dodged back behind his book case, glad he had taken precautions. But if they were pinned down here, their life was going to be measured in seconds either way.

Autumn was standing, her hair flowing down to her waist, the gunfire creating a slight wind that swirled it back and forth, in the middle of the doorway.

"Get down!" Kip shouted, panic ripping through his guts.

"I told you already, didn't I? Get behind me. I can't protect you if I don't know your location." Autumn pointed to where he needed to stand imperiously. The door had shredded apart. Bullets were flying in a storm directly where Autumn was standing. Whatever miracle had preserved her so far couldn't possibly last another instant.

Autumn Brewnell wasn't hit. She wasn't afraid. A sea of bullets were piling up a few feet in front of her, making a clink clink clink as they scattered off the ground. All of their tips were deformed, as though by a violent impact. Then the guns went silent, because their barrels had been twisted like pretzels. Then the cursing police went silent, because their necks had just been twisted 180 degrees. Kip stared. He had gone mad. No, he was in complete control of his senses. The world had gone mad. The world had gone mad ever since this morning. Kip stood up and walked to where Autumn had pointed. He was willing to believe anything now.

"Follow me." Autumn walked out of the principal's office. Another barrage of machine gun fire caught her in a crossfire from both hallways. Police were running towards their location from all directions. Autumn stood like a rock against the crashing waves, carefully looked at her opponents one by one, and their necks snapped too, the heavily armored SWAT team fell like so many rag dolls from the gaze of a basilisk. A blue eyed basilisk. No, a blue eyed reaper of souls. Kip watched her as a grenade's explosion harmlessly stopped at an invisible line in the air, her hair streaming behind the toss of her head and turn of her shoulders, and could only think of one line. He was sure it was a quote, but God only knew from where.


The hallway, which had been a den of chaos, fell silent again. Everyone within sight was no longer moving. Autumn motioned Kip with her hand and started jogging towards the exit. At one intersection a hail of gunfire ambushed her from the side, but the bullets didn't hit her this time either. Kip was suddenly very glad he was following her closely. His baseball bat felt very, very useless. Autumn turned with that customary look of scorn on her face, her chin tilted slightly to the right of level, and fixed her gaze on the man who had thought he was clever. The firing stopped again. The rest of the hallway passages out of the school were clear. Whatever reinforcements the police had called for would be coming from places much further away now. They were free and clear. Autumn broke into a quick run. She didn't check to see if Kip was keeping up. He followed her, keeping his breathing even. It's not like a girl could outpace him. Even if this was practically a sprint. He could sprint for longer distances than most people could jog. Not that he had ever tested his ability against anyone else before. It was just one of those embarrassing things he never revealed, since he had never had to before.

"What is Norn?" Kip asked, finding air enough for the words even at their pace.

"I told you, no questions, Kip." Autumn turned her head sideways, so that her voice would carry behind her, the disgust she attached to his name very clear. Her blonde hair was streaming almost horizontally now with the wind, and her face had an elated smile. It looked monstrous on her. He had never even imagined her face could crease that way. Elated because they were running so fast? Because she had escaped from life in prison? Or because she had just killed so many men? Who, or what, was Autumn Brewnell? And why was she still so achingly beautiful to him?

"You're keeping up. Good. Then we're increasing our pace." Autumn informed him. She turned her head forward again, and suddenly she bolted ahead of him. Kip blinked. She was just a girl. Her leg muscles didn't look anything special. But she was an Olympic class runner. Before they had banned the Olympics a century ago, because it was a symbol of the ancient fascist elitism. A relic of the past, a sickening cult of the forbidden word. The word Kip couldn't even bring himself to think. But how else could you describe that speed? Kip released all of his limiters, every instinct he had taught himself to stay slow with. He was suddenly sprinting faster than he ever had, and it was still a race to catch up. He started gasping for air, his lungs pulling in more and more strength, letting the pounding of his legs find a stable rhythm. They were racing through city blocks, weaving their way through traffic, and all of a sudden Kip found himself smiling too. He had never run this fast. He had never thought someone else could run this fast, either. He felt drunk on his own pounding blood. His heart beat so hard it felt ready to leave his chest. Kip dropped his worthless baseball bat and pumped his arms to keep his balance, his hands like knife edges to cut the wind.

The world narrowed down to his next few steps, her streaming flying hair, her hips rolling back and forth, and the colors that came and went at the sides of his eyes. He was keeping up. And in four minutes, at a pace meant only for the shortest bursts, they were both at Chesterfield and 5th. She peeled out in a curve, slowing herself down with every step. He passed far in front of her before he could stop, clutching his knees and gasping for air. He hadn't made a fool of himself by losing to a girl, thank God. But if she had run even a tenth of a second faster. . .

"Get behind me. We're walking from here. Catch your breath and cool down." Autumn ordered.

"Walking?" Kip gasped in consternation between big gulping breaths for more air. Even so, he stepped back behind her, the only place she had guaranteed his safety.

"What part of 'no questions' do you not understand?" Autumn gave him an ugly glare.

"The necessity." Kip quipped. Autumn stared at him, like she was trying to make sense of an exotic lifeform, and then she started laughing. Her voice had that same carefree tone she never used during school. It was full and true and free. It made him smile without even knowing what the joke was.

"I suppose you're right, Kip." Autumn used her familiar drawled out pronunciation of his name. "It isn't necessary anymore. I suppose it's up to mother if we kill you. But if we don't kill you, now's as good a time to know the truth as any. We're walking the rest of the way from here. Just stay close behind me, and we should be fine. I'll answer any questions you like. Fire away."

"What is Norn?" Kip started, curiosity finally surging back to the fore of his mind, fiercer than any previous moment in his life.

"Norn's a girl who was sitting in a car that's long since driven off now. She's my friend." Autumn replied affably.

"Why are we safe now?" Kip tried to keep his questions orderly. He wanted to know everything.

"She telepathically wove a mask around us. Anyone who sees us, even through a video camera, will see an arranged fake identity. You could say it's a thought-mine. The police can't chase us anymore. As far as they're concerned, Autumn Brewnell and Kip Miles simply disappeared at Chesterfield and 5th." Autumn replied.

"Why didn't we die at school?" Kip asked.

"I wove a telekinetic barrier around us in a sphere," Autumn kept walking leisurely ahead of him, keeping her head halfway turned enough to talk without having to raise her voice.

"If you're this strong, did you have to kill anyone?" Kip asked.

"You heard me in the classroom. I didn't call the government a bunch of poopyheads. I declared war." Autumn's voice was unwavering.

"Are you really a racist?" Kip asked. He probably shouldn't be challenging a girl who killed without a second thought. But she had promised him the truth. And for some reason, he trusted her to fulfill her promises. Even though such a concept was entirely outdated. It was too judgmental to hold people to standards. Even ones they set themselves. Hypocrisy and lies were normal, after all. Avoiding them smacked of arrogance.

"No." Autumn answered.

Kip sighed a breath of relief. "So this is all just a misunderstanding, right? You're not against the system. You just want the freedom to marry the person of your choice. Like Julie!"

"Don't get me wrong, and don't lump me in with the likes of her. Racist implies I belong to a certain race, and the rest of you belong to another race, and I think my race is superior to yours, which is why I would oppose miscegenation. That's not true at all." Autumn smiled toothily at him, her blue eyes waiting for a desired reaction.

"I'm not a racist. I have nothing against miscegenation. I'm a speciesist. I'm opposed to bestiality." Autumn smiled sweetly. Kip knew he would never begin to understand this girl.



Chapter 2

Kip Miles arrived at the 'mill' a few hours later. It wasn't actually a mill, it was an underground tunnel complex in the middle of an uninhabited forest, and apparently the headquarters of this region of the resistance. How many years had it taken to secretly build this base under the nose of the government? How long had they been planning a rebellion? Or was it just a contingency plan in case the government went too far, and they had planned to stay loyal citizens as long as they possibly could? Kip Miles filed that question away for Autumn later. They hadn't said much after her stunning statement, just business related talk about how to reach the mill and what kind of reception he could expect to find there. He hadn't known what questions to even ask her anymore. Their worlds were so far apart, and she felt so alien to his experience that she may as well belong to another species. Plus, her carefree remark that it probably didn't matter what he knew anymore, because he was heading to his execution, had made further conversations seem rather pointless. Even so, he followed Autumn into the woods. She would have killed him on the spot if he had attempted to flee. He had no future as a criminal on the lamb in the real world. And despite everything, he still couldn't stop looking at this incredibly beautiful woman. He had seen so many new expressions cross her face since this morning. Her angry face. Her confused face. Her scared face. Her berserk face. Her pleasant face. Her happy face. How many more would he get to see, if he stayed by her side? He didn't know, but he wanted to know. He wanted to see every face she would ever make.

"Here we are." Autumn Brewnell gestured gracefully, lifting her arm in an underhanded position to present him to his courtroom. At the top of a raised platform was another blonde, blue eyed woman, still young looking, who captured his eyes immediately with hawk like intensity. It just had to be Autumn's mother. The lord of this manor, come to dispense justice. Which makes Autumn the duchess? Princess? Did these people hold ranks among themselves, as though already sovereign and independent? Another question to be filed away for later, if he actually survived.

"You may sit." The woman stated. "My name is Colette Brewnell, and I will be presiding. Though this case is extroardinary, I assure you an impartial hearing and decision, Mr. . ."

"Kip Miles." Kip provided helpfully.

"Mr. Kip." Colette twisted his name with a feeling of distaste that she couldn't quite banish. Was this really an impartial judge? Kip felt a rising tide of panic. Stop it. You had much more self control in the school, didn't you? This is nothing compared to that. Don't look the fool in front of these people, you need their respect if you're ever going to leave this room. Kip Miles bowed hesitantly and then sat down into a cushioned swivel chair behind a desk. Autumn sat down at another table to his left, also facing her mother the judge.

"Autumn Brewnell will serve as a witness for details I am unsure about. But mostly I need answers from you, Mr. Kip." Colette fixed her gaze on him again, and he felt a shiver run up his spine. Those blue eyes were just unnatural. Did she have psychic powers too? Could she tell if he lied? Safer to just tell the truth. I have nothing to hide, after all. In fact, shouldn't I be receiving a medal or something?

"Why did you attempt to save my daughter from an entire police force armed only with a baseball bat?" Colette Brewnell asked.

"I didn't think it out that far. I just knew I had to do something." Kip replied.

"Mr. Kip, please be aware that your life depends upon these answers. Try to be more articulate in your answers." Colette Brewnell suggested.

"I. . .thought it was better to die fighting than to just. . .let her disappear. For my sake, more than hers." Kip admitted.

"So you decided to make a political statement, out of the blue, and Autumn was just a convenient chance to do so? Are you aware that in doing so, you endangered Autumn's life, who up until that point was safe?" Colette asked.

"No. It wasn't like that. I didn't consider her safe at all. There was endless evidence to prove the state's case. I thought she would rot in jail forever." Kip replied.

"So you decided for her that she should also die resisting arrest, even though she had clearly not resisted arrest in front of you?" Colette asked.

"She was just a girl. What could she do? I didn't consider her lack of resistance to be due to a lack of will to resist. Besides, there was always a chance we could get away, working together. She didn't know she had an ally at the time." Kip felt angry that he had to defend himself. He had been a hero, and they were acting like he had conspired to murder Autumn through his actions.

"Are you aware that Autumn could have been freed in a peaceful manner at any number of places and times within due process that would have left no trace and put neither her nor us in any peril?" Colette asked Kip sharply.

"I am now. I wasn't aware then." Kip glared back at his interrogator. How could anyone predict the presence of psychic powers in the world? It was just a ridiculous science fiction concept. How could they expect him to know about it?

"Why did you prefer to die fighting over letting Autumn disappear?" Colette seemed content with his response, and thus was changing tacks.

"Because I said an unforgivable thing to her as she was being dragged away." Kip said.

"Which was?" Colette asked.

"I agreed with the teacher that she was trash, and didn't object when she was called a 'filthy racist' either. Autumn couldn't. . . no, there was no way I could forgive myself if I just left things like that." Kip corrected himself.

"But according to your principles, isn't everything the teacher said true?" Colette asked blandly.

"Autumn's too beautiful to be evil." Kip Miles replied.

"Isn't that a rather incoherent philosophy, Mr. Kip?" Colette couldn't avoid smiling though. Perhaps out of amusement, but perhaps just because she was proud whenever her daughter was praised for the beauty her mother had given her.

"I plan to make it coherent, given time." Kip answered. "But I know it's true already."

"That's a fascinating method of reasoning, to be sure." Colette sat back in her chair, tapping her fingers on her podium. She closed her eyes and thought for a moment, then switched her targets to her daughter.

"Autumn, is it safe to say this man is in love with you?" Colette asked.

"An infatuation at most, Mother." Autumn replied, her lips twisting at just the idea of Kip's feelings. "He doesn't know anything about me, and he approached me with the most disgusting offer previously, which shows he has absolutely no respect for me either."

"Is that true, Mr. Kip? Did you approach my daughter with a disgusting offer previously?" Colette turned her gaze back to her primary target.

"I. . .didn't consider it so at the time. I actually thought. . .she would be flattered. . ." Kip gestured helplessly, trying to look towards Autumn for help, who tossed her head away with disdain. What was wrong with no fault sex? Everyone did it. And he had only asked her of all people. Didn't that mean something to her?

"Were you perhaps hoping to die together with my daughter because you had been turned down previously, and this was the closest approximation to your disgusting offer you could make with an unwilling partner?" Colette asked searchingly.

"The two were completely unrelated!" Kip insisted.

Colette sighed, sitting back and closing her eyes again. "Autumn, what do you make of this person? Be fair."

"He means well." Autumn admitted. "He's smarter than the rest of them. But that just makes him all the more cowardly, for refusing to disagree with society. He disgusts me for slavishly mimicking his inferiors. He particularly disgusts me for thinking he could impress me or break me to the standards of his world. I suppose something could be done with him given time, since he seems willing to change. I didn't expect him to rush to my rescue, so he's already changed from the boy I previously knew and hated."

"Now Autumn, you know how useless it is to hate homo sapiens. The feeling is squandered on them, and it doesn't help us any to hold onto it. How many times have I told you to let their provocations wash over you? Do humans respond to monkey's provocations?" Colette lectured her daughter.

"I just hated him in particular." Autumn excused herself.

"And Ms. Hunter, did you just hate her in particular too?" Colette asked with an amused smile.

"Mother, if you had seen her smug smile. . ." Autumn's eyes flashed, and her hands balled up into fists again. "It was beyond endurance, Mother."

"Beyond endurance for a willful child perhaps. And yet, we've successfully coexisted with homo sapiens for three hundred years now. All of your ancestors endured. All of us endured all around the world, except for you, who found it beyond endurance." Colette pointed out.

"None of them had to listen to Ms. Hunter." Autumn lifted her chin up defiantly at her mother, her hair swaying down her back from the slightest motions of her head.

Colette Brewnell laughed. "Perhaps, Autumn. Perhaps. In this case, it is immaterial, because of course we cannot coexist with the government anymore anyway. If we can't choose our marriage partners, that is the same as genocide, because they intend to wipe out all of our unique genes and culture, which only selective marriage has preserved until this point. Getting along at this point would be a sort of macabre joke. There can only be war from here on. Your shot across the bow is as good a starting point as any." Colette admitted.

Autumn nodded, as if to accept her Mother's surrender, looking very pleased with herself.

"It's a shame we had to reveal the presence of our secret weapons this soon, however." Colette's voice became much stricter with her daughter.

"That was Kip's doing -- " Autumn replied in an offended tone.

"A Kip who was forced into action because of your rash words, daughter." Colette cut Autumn off.

"I didn't ask for his help." Autumn replied venomously.

"And yet he gave it to you." Colette pointed out.

"How could I predict he would act like a human being and not just another homo sapien?" Autumn asked in wounded protest.

"How indeed? It is a fair question." Colette studied Kip Miles again like a particularly rare insect pinned to a wooden plaque.

"There is a mystery about you, Kip Miles. You look average, and you think averagely, but you do not act like an average person, and your capacity is not an average person's, mentally or physically. There is something awry in this picture. It would all make sense if you were a special agent selected to infiltrate us. Your 'help' could then make perfect sense as an assigned task given to a double agent hoping to learn everything about us before you report to your superiors. But I almost feel like that is too sophisticated and complex a plot for homo sapiens. The evidence also fits a completely different picture, simply someone who fell through the cracks and despite himself ended up not being average, who can recognize superiority when he sees it and is instinctively attracted to it, no matter what his education has taught him. In that case, with a bit of effort on both of our parts, ours to educate you, and yours to be educated, who knows? Maybe you could become our companion. So here is my sentence." Colette Brewnell sat up in her chair and tapped her gavel with her hammer.

"Kip Miles, you are hereby sentenced to probation. The penalty for breaking your probation is death. The terms of your probation are simple: You will obey all humans. You will not communicate with homo sapiens without our knowledge. You will not try to leave this area without permission. You will educate yourself in the way of human beings starting today, and strive sincerely to make progress in your education. If at any time you find yourself unable to fit into human society, you may petition for immediate execution instead. If you cannot accept these terms, we can execute you right here and now as you prefer. Mr. Kip?" Colette asked with an eyebrow raised.

"I accept your probation." Kip quickly replied, bowing in his seat.

"Autumn Brewnell, as punishment for your insubordinate and reckless revealing of military secrets, you are hereby assigned to educate Kip Miles into a first class human being." Colette struck her gavel with her hammer again.

"But Mother!" Autumn halfway stood up in protest.

Colette simply stared at her daughter. Autumn quailed, and then sat back down.

"Yes Mother." Autumn bowed her head.

"It seems he should strive especially hard to become human for your sake, Autumn." Colette smiled.

"Don't say that like it's a comfort." Autumn whined.

"If it were a comfort, it wouldn't be much of a punishment, now would it?" Colette laughed at her daughter, then stood up. "That is all. Autumn, show Mr. Kip around and get him his own room. You are free for the rest of the day, but you will personally tutor him from breakfast to lunch, and lunch to dinner, for the foreseeable future. When he is ready to become a citizen, bring him before us, and we will have another trial. At that time, Mr. Kip, perhaps your probation will end." Colette said this with a false compassion for his plight, then left the room.

Autumn turned her head to look at him and ground her teeth in frustration. "Come along then." She gestured, standing up. "I want to eat dinner and take a bath. I don't have all day for you."

Kip sighed and nodded meekly. "Do you hate me that much?" Kip asked despite himself.

"I said I hated you. I don't know what to think of you anymore." Autumn gazed back at Kip levelly, her voice crystal clear with each syllable. "Perhaps Mother is right and you could become a human being with time. But who in their right mind would want to spend half of every day around a homo sapien, meanwhile? No one here could enjoy your company. Don't ask the impossible."

"The way you talk, shouldn't there be an unbridgeable divide between humans and homo sapiens? How can I just switch from one to the other?" Kip asked irritatedly.

"How indeed? It shouldn’t be possible. But no matter, there are exceptions to every rule. Some freak accident was bound to occur eventually, where homo sapiens spontaneously emit a human or two, here and there, with capabilities on par with our own. We ourselves are just a cultured line of homo sapien genes, after all, so chance could eventually fall upon the same results, with a wide enough sample, now and then.” Autumn admitted. The two walked out of the courtroom as she consulted her phone for instructions to an empty room.

“Why do you get to be ‘humans?’ You’re the ones who insist you’re different. Couldn’t you have found your own name?” Kip was all the more confrontational with Autumn since he had been so unable to answer back to her mother earlier.

“We are the only true humans remaining. Why should we have to change our names? Part of being human is retaining the wish to progress, to have a spark of divinity, to be half angel as well as half beast. The rest of mankind turned their back on that part of humanity, and thereby forsook their humanity. We just stayed the same, we stayed human. We are part of a tradition of progress, of evolution. Our eyes, like the humans of the past, are fixed on the stars. We are the proper descendants of the human tradition, the proper inheritors of their will. It was you who lost your status as humans and regressed to mere homo sapiens. It was you who lost sight of everything important and became fixated on this dead end Earth. Don’t blame us for leaving you behind.” Autumn replied.

“I see.” Kip surrendered. He wanted to get along with Autumn, but she just kept insulting him with every choice of words and the very tone of her voice. She had been bullied in class, but now he saw that she was hardly a suffering victim. If she had had the opportunity, she would have been ten times as scathing in return. She harbored more ill will towards her classmates than they harbored towards her, even though she was outnumbered thirty to one. The class had no idea, or they would have bullied her much more than they did. Of course, that just would have meant getting their necks snapped, so maybe it was a good thing they hadn’t known. Kip smiled ruefully at the thought.

“Here’s your room.” Autumn opened the door for him and gave a graceful sweeping gesture. It had a bed, a desk, a chair and a bookshelf.

“The facilities are down the hall.” Autumn pointed at a door with a sign. “Dinner is served at the cafeteria. I suppose you could come eat dinner with my family.” Autumn invited Kip grudgingly.

“How big is your family?” Kip asked curiously.

“I have ten brothers and five sisters. Three fourths of them are older than me.” Autumn said.

Kip’s eyes widened as far as they would go. “All of the same mother? That young woman we just met?”

“Of course. We aren’t barbarians who just have sex with anyone.” Autumn sneered in disgust. “And Mother isn’t all that young. She’s forty five years old.”

“Forty Five?” Kip choked.

“We selected for health and longevity.” Autumn explained with a bored expression, as though talking to a very dull learner.

“But even so. . .why so many children?” Kip asked, flustered.

“Children are our weapons. Children are our lifeline. We needed enough children to resist the vast majority of mankind, when the day came, no matter how small a minority of practitioners our way of life became. Demographics is just another part of our resistance.” Autumn explained.

“But don’t you feel bad for the environment?” Kip asked. The school had always insisted on low birth rates so that they could coexist with the environment, which had just as much an equal worth as humans and just as great a right to exist as humans.

“Once we kill off the homo sapiens, there will be more than enough room.” Autumn responded blithely.

“Kill off?” Kip’s voice was shocked again.

“Of course. What did you think would happen? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a genocide for a genocide. Homo Sapiens have just declared their intention to wipe us out of existence via forced intermixing. How would you like us to respond?” Autumn looked at Kip quizzically.

“You could fight without going so far.” Kip offered.

“What would be the point?” Autumn asked, her eyebrows raised in genuine curiosity. Kip didn’t have a reply. He decided not to join her for dinner.

* * *

“How was breakfast?” Autumn Brewnell sat down on a couch opposite his, with a table full of books stacked between them.

“It was food.” Kip shrugged. He had never particularly cared what he ate, so long as it kept him full.

“Are you done sulking?” Autumn asked pleasantly.

“I suppose.” Kip sighed. Can I really become human, now that I know what that signifies? It means helping kill off all the rest of mankind. These people are crazy. But I said Autumn was too beautiful to be evil, didn’t I? Were those words so halfhearted? In which case, surely somewhere within this education, I’ll learn why she’s right to think this way. That’s what I said, that I intended to make my thinking coherent, to fit within the concept of Autumn being a good person. So I just have to keep learning until I do think that way. Was dying really a better choice? Especially when I can always choose to die later?

“Good, then start asking questions. We have a lot of ground to cover and I intend to fulfill my role as your tutor responsibly. Mother expects a genuine effort on both of our parts, or she’s going to revisit the terms of our probation.” Autumn said.

“Okay.” Kip ventured a glance at Autumn’s face, still marveling at how bright it glowed from reflected ambient light. “How does your family support sixteen children?” Kip asked the first of the questions he had prepared last night in bed.

“Welfare.” Autumn replied.

“I. . .why do I keep feeling surprised every time you answer a question?” Kip sighed, shaking his head.

“I don’t know. Why do you, Kip?” Autumn asked. “You act like a startled deer every time I open my mouth.” Kip was still situated around slug in her vocabulary.

“I thought you people were proud. So why are you all on welfare?” Kip complained.

“Welfare is just another form of resistance.” Autumn replied. “Why work for homo sapiens? That would be working against our own interests. It’s better to have you people working for us. That way, we can concentrate on what matters: Increasing our numbers and improving ourselves. It’s worked rather well so far.”

“Why doesn’t the government notice? Why don’t they do something about it?” Kip complained.

“It’s your own stated principle that everyone is interchangeable. They can’t admit that people who live on welfare are worse than people who work for a living, so how can they limit their payments to us? The government must support every living human being equally, so naturally we just took advantage of that and stopped working long ago.” Autumn said.

“But even if you can do it, is it moral to take advantage of others like that?” Kip asked.

“What are you saying? If homo sapiens didn’t forcibly include us within their country’s laws, we would have become an independent nation long ago. Since we can’t live as we please under our own laws, how is it immoral to wage economic warfare against enemies who bind us to them? Do you think it’s fair to force all of us to attend your brainwashing schools that try to teach us how evil we are every day?” Autumn asked.

“No, but that doesn’t mean you can hurt others in turn.” Kip said.

“Why not?” Autumn asked, again confused.

“Because hurting people is wrong.” Kip said, feeling like he was talking to an alien instead of a beautiful girl across the table.

“This is an elected government, is it not?” Autumn asked politely.

“Yes.” Kip agreed.

“And therefore the will of the government is the will of the people?” Autumn asked again.

“Yes.” Kip agreed.

“So every single person who voted for the laws to be this way has voted to harm us dissidents for the last three hundred years? Has supported the government with taxes and police and soldiers to enforce this government’s laws against us?” Autumn asked.

“Yes, but. . .” Kip retreated.

“But what, Kip? Why should we care about any of them? They have been teaching how evil we are in school, demonizing our present and our past. They have forced us to stay inside their own country’s borders against our will. They have attached blue ovals to our clothes, forced us to say mantras against our own beliefs, thrown us in jail for hate speech and treason, fined us, hounded us, and hunted us for hundreds of years. The people at large have voted for all of this approvingly and supported these actions 100%. Why shouldn’t we hurt your people in turn? This is the same argument as last night. The government has announced a plan to genocide us. All of your voters, all of your people, approve of this measure and voted for the people who installed it. Why shouldn’t we kill all of your people in turn now?” Autumn asked.

“But they don’t know any better.” Kip said helplessly. “It was how they were raised.”

“What kind of excuse is that?” Autumn asked. “People have free will. You are responsible for your beliefs, no matter who taught you them. If what you are raised to believe doesn’t make sense, you have the power to reject it, and find alternate routes to the truth. They could read books. They could have listened to us when we argued against these laws. Why don’t they know any better?”

“You’re like the prophets from the Old Testament. You go out and give all the people warning of God’s judgment, and if they don’t listen, then they’ve been duly warned and ignorance isn’t an excuse.” Kip realized aloud.

“Precisely. The truth has been available to the people of this country for hundreds of years. It was their choice to actively avoid it, like some sort of rattlesnake, and live in a fantasy world. This fantasy world just so happens to include abusing and oppressing anyone who does believe the truth and wants to live for its sake. To say there are any innocent homo sapiens on Earth is absurd.” Autumn concluded, pleased that he was learning.

“What about children, then? You intend to kill off all mankind, even the ones who haven’t had a chance to review the evidence.” Kip accused.

“What about them? When did they ever take pity on our children? They’re actively forcing us to not have any children with our genes or culture anymore. Is that merciful to our unborn?” Autumn asked.

“Why must you always compare yourselves to them? Can’t you decide on your own morality?” Kip asked, frustrated.

“Our own morality includes reciprocity, so of course we compare ourselves to them.” Autumn said, her voice still calm, though her eyes were starting to narrow at his constant challenges.

“Then, why does it include reciprocity? Didn’t Jesus say to turn the other cheek?” Kip asked.

“Jesus was a fool.” Autumn replied. “Reciprocity is natural and rational. Everyone should be treated in the same way they deign to treat others. If respectfully and fairly, then respectfully and fairly. If oppressively and cruelly, then oppressively and cruelly. It’s such common sense it’s ingrained in human genetics. It’s also the best strategy in the prisoner’s dilemma. It’s therefore pleasing to the soul and has high utility as a method of decision making. I guess you could say the children of homo sapiens are innocent, but it really doesn’t matter in the end. Their parents sealed their fate by starting a war with us, and parents are responsible for their children -- we aren’t. If homo sapiens wanted their children to survive, they shouldn’t have attempted to genocide humanity. Now pandora’s box is open, and they are responsible for everything that comes of it. In the end, they were just homo sapien children anyway. Nothing will be lost with their passing. Like I said, it just means there will be more room for the rest of us -- real humans.”

“But that means you were just looking for an excuse to kill off the rest of us!” Kip complained bitterly.

“No, we were prepared to coexist. So long as we had the ability to continue, we were willing to uphold this farce. For one thing, it isn’t certain we’re strong enough to win this war. We would have preferred to put it off to a much later date. For another, if we hadn’t been pressured so much, we could’ve instead managed to escape off this planet, and freely and peacefully settle somewhere else. It’s homo sapiens who have forced us into a kill or be killed crisis. I suggest you direct your anger towards them, and that horrid lottery law. We certainly had no hand in passing it. We voted against these policies all along. We aren’t the ones cheering about it, or its necessary results.” Autumn said.

“Couldn’t you just surrender? What’s the big deal if your kids don’t look like you anymore?” Kip wheedled.

Autumn sat back like she’d just been slapped. She bit her lip to stop the anger from overwhelming her. “Who knows? I wonder. Why should we care if everything we love is destroyed forever? What should it matter to us to see the entire world plunge into darkness and despair? Why should we want our children to be happy or successful when we could just throw them to the wolves? You’re right, Kip. What was I thinking? I guess I’ll go turn myself in now.”

“It’s not that bad, you’re exaggerating . .” Kip looked sideways, trying to avoid her face.

“This world? Not that bad? You’re just too stupid to know how bad it is. You’re too stupid to know how good it should be. You don’t know anything. Why did you try to save me? I detest you.” Autumn slammed her open palm on the table, her voice rising to a shout.

“Says the baby killer!” Kip stood up across from her. “You’re like everyone said, like all the classes warned. You’re just a bunch of genocidal Nazis!”

“Do you think you’re saying anything new? Do you think you’re making some sort of brilliant deduction, Kip?” Autumn taunted him, yelling at him from across the table, striving with every inch of her body to stand taller than him. But it didn’t work. Autumn was tall, but Kip was taller.

“How many times do you think we’ve been called Nazis? Racists? Discriminators? And yet who was it who, in the end, tried to genocide a peaceful civilian minority? Who was it? Was it us, or was it you? Who was it, Kip? Who tried to murder my babies before they were ever born, to forcibly prevent their existence by mixing up their genes like scrambled eggs with retarded rejects?” Autumn challenged.

“You’re just repeating yourself! Two wrongs don’t make a right!” Kip yelled.

“Self defense is right.” Autumn replied.

“Only until your own life is out of peril, any force beyond that is just a new form of aggression!” Kip shot back.

“And who says our lives will ever be out of peril so long as they live? Why should we have to refight the same war over and over, every time with the risk that they’ll genocide us, while they never have to fear any risk of us genociding them? How many tries until they win, Kip? How many wars would it take if they’re allowed to kill all of us but we can only fight back each instance until they sue for peace, because ‘two wrongs don‘t make a right’? Why should we risk ourselves for homo sapien scum? Do you think your lives are worth anything compared to ours? Do you think a million, or ten million homo sapiens is worth one human’s life? Don’t get cocky! You aren’t worth the dirt on our shoes. You aren’t worth my little finger!” Autumn Brewnell’s mouth twisted with contempt at just the idea of a comparison.

“Says the welfare recipient!” Kip shouted. “I’m taking a walk.”

“Enjoy!” Autumn shouted back. Pretty much everyone within a hundred yards of the room was listening in and laughing. No matter how much they hated each other, there wasn’t any escape for either of them.


Chapter 3

“I can’t stand that man.” Autumn Brewnell repeated herself for what had to be the fourth time. She sat in bed with her back propped up against the wall, talking to one of her best friends before night fell, which was the only free time she had to herself anymore. She wasn’t sure what was worse, attending school or teaching Kip, but in both cases she simply could not escape the ‘reasoning’ of homo sapiens. She had thought she would finally be free of having to listen to them prate after she declared war. Instead her mother had made sure to make her listen to their moralistic droning twice as often as before. She hadn’t revealed that many secrets. Her mother could have punished her some other way. This was too awful.

“Did you explain to him that we have no intention of killing anyone? That we’re simply going to offer them a choice of being surrogate parents to our fertilized eggs or going childless until they die of old age?” Norn Lyles asked patiently.

“What difference does it make? They’ll still be dead in the end.” Autumn complained.

“Monkeys seem to care about these things.” Norn shrugged helplessly.

“Why? In the great scheme of things, what difference does it make if homo sapiens die violently or peacefully? Homo sapiens have been fighting wars with each other, killing each other, since time began. Now suddenly we can’t kill them, even though we‘re strictly superior beings? That’s ridiculous! Even if we were smashing their skulls in with spiked fists we’d still be in the right. At least we aren’t raping them all, like they plan to do to us. Serial rape for life! And he has time to feel mercy for them?” Autumn punched her stuffed rabbit doll she had had since she was two.

“Why do you let him get to you? It’s just the chirping of a parrot.” Norn soothed her best friend.

“That’s just the thing. He’s not! He’s supposed to be human! I couldn’t even outrun him, Norn. I ran with all I had until my heart was about to burst, because my pride couldn’t take the fact that he was keeping up, but I just couldn’t lose him. Does that sound like a homo sapien to you? And he says all these obnoxiously clever things. He tells me what to do like he always knows what’s best. He’s not just a parrot! But he still doesn’t get why he’s wrong. Why? What does he not see? Why isn’t everything obvious to him, if he is a human? Not just human, he’s our level, Norn.” Autumn said.

“Impossible. There are only nineteen of us on Earth.” Norn rejected.

“Oh, I don’t mean he’s a psychic or anything. But the body, the brain, the health and looks -- have you seen him?” Autumn asked.

“Sure, I saw him the first day, when I was covering for you. He didn’t look anything special. Just another mud.” Norn said.

“I thought that too, but he’s not. Oh, sure, from far off, all you can see is the brown skin and you assume the worst, but there are plenty of humans with brown skin too. He’s got the symmetry, he’s blemishless -- and this is at age sixteen -- his teeth are perfectly straight -- he’s human, Norn. How can you explain such a perfect specimen otherwise? It took our ancestors hundreds of years to get rid of all our faults, to build up our athleticism, to build up our intelligence, our health, our looks, and everything. We only reached pyschic class this generation, even though there were hints of the ability earlier. And yet this boy, this Kip, is born from completely average parents and he leapfrogs, leapfrogs, up the evolutionary ladder to be better than most humans, whose ancestors had to work, oppressed and persecuted, for centuries to deliver these abilities to their children? It’s outrageous. And instead of being grateful for this miracle, he takes their side. He told me to just surrender to lifelong rape, Norn.” Autumn said.

“No.” Norn’s eyes widened disbelievingly.

“I swear he did.” Autumn repeated.

“Shouldn’t you have killed him right there? I mean, weren’t the terms of his probation that he would be executed if he rejected us?” Norn complained.

“I thought about it, but it seemed too cowardly. We were having an argument after all. What if he thought I killed him because I simply couldn’t win the argument? What if he died smirking at me like he thought he’d won and I was just at a loss for words. I couldn’t stand the idea, so I just kept talking.” Autumn explained.

“I guess you’re right. You did the right thing, sparing him. I can’t stand the idea of him thinking he was actually right even after he’s met us and seen how superior we are to the outside world. We need to break his spirit, not his body. Isn’t that your job, Autumn? To break him, to make him admit we’re better, and everything we believe is the truth behind this world? Actually, it sounds kind of fun, having someone to debate with. I mean, everyone here already knows we‘re right, so we don‘t have half as much to talk about, don‘t you think?” Norn asked.

“Do you want him? You can have him, Norn.” Autumn offered with a pleading expression.

Norn held up her hands and waved them in front of her chest. “And take on your mother, who assigned you the job? No thank you.”

“I thought as much.” Autumn sighed.

“I’ll try and talk to him though.” Norn offered. “After your lessons. Maybe he just needs a change of pace, someone else to talk to, and he’ll be more reasonable.”

“That would be a great help. Maybe he just won’t listen to me out of spite. I may have offended him a little. . .” Autumn looked away with a slight blush of embarrassment at falling short of her role as a tutor. “But he called me just as many names and worse.”

“What do you expect from monkeys? They were never taught manners. It’s not even illegal in their culture to slander each other.” Norn said.

“You don’t think he’ll try to rape you if you enter his room after dinner?” Autumn asked, her face shocked at the oversight they had almost made. “I’m safe, but your ability is useless in combat. . .”

“I don’t think he’s that bad.” Norn laughed.

“You just don’t know yet! He could. He really could!” Autumn would believe anything of Kip.

“In that case, I’ll bring Toland with me. Would that put you at ease?” Norn smiled patronizingly. Norn, like all the other psychics except Autumn, was already engaged to another psychic. Toland and Norn had been engaged since their abilities emerged, psychic paired with psychic, in the hopes of keeping whatever unique genes had given them their newfound powers. It was the hope of their people that psychic powers would spread from a rarity to the norm. It was up to Norn to give birth to a new race of mankind. It should have been up to Autumn too, but the numbers simply didn’t match up. There was one more female psychic than male psychic, so Autumn had to wait, presumably for a new male psychic child to be found, so that she could marry him as soon as possible. Even if she was ten years older than the man, if it meant two psychics could be paired off, it was worth sacrificing her happiness over. Marriage was a tool to advance the species. It was not a recreation, it was the most serious business on Earth. She had known that and been prepared for the worst since she was a child. More than a happy family life, she had wanted the victory of mankind over the muds. Psychics were their secret weapon. If she could build more of those weapons in her womb, she would sacrifice anything. She just wished a boy with an ability would emerge already. She was already sixteen. In two years all of her friends would be married and bearing children, but she wasn’t even engaged yet. It was a worry that dogged her every night, no matter how often she tried to set it aside and forget about it.

“Yes, if Toland’s there, it would be fine.” Autumn brought her mind back to the business at hand. Toland could generate electricity, which made him a walking artillery platform. Kip wouldn’t last a split second against Toland.

“Enough about our resident monkey, though.” Norn said. “What about the world aboveground? Has your mother told you anything about her plans?” Colette Brewnell was the leader of their cell. She didn’t have any psychic powers, but then again, no one her age did. Only the new generation, at most twenty years old, were ability users. And authority was determined by perceived wisdom and experience, not raw power. It would be a long time before psychics would not just be taking orders from above on how to use their talents.

“Nothing.” Autumn sighed. “We’re safe, as far as we know. Once the order went out for everyone to withdraw from homo sapien society for fear of a mass roundup and escape into our hideouts, there hasn’t been any fighting at all. I suppose they’re searching for us now, though on what legal grounds I can’t even guess. I’m the only criminal after all.”

“Conspiracy, treason, etc. Political crimes can include anyone for any reason.” Norn brushed her objection aside.

“We have years of supplies stocked up, just like the plan, but I don’t see why Mother prefers waiting. Just because we can lay low doesn’t mean we should. Eventually we have to defeat the homo sapien army and install our laws in the world. Even if Mother thinks we aren’t strong enough, we have to fight sooner or later, so we should just take that risk and see what happens.” Autumn said.

“Maybe she’s waiting for something.” Norn suggested.

“What? What could change the strategic balance?” Autumn asked.

“I don’t know. I’m more out of the loop than you, you know.” Norn rolled her eyes.

“Sorry.” Autumn apologized for asking the impossible. “If I were fighting, I could stop teaching Kip every day. I could just be running around killing people and never have to hear another one of his awful speeches.”

“I guess the world isn’t always arranged for our convenience.” Norn teased.

“Fine. So I’ve been complaining all night. It’s all Kip’s fault. Tomorrow morning I’ll show him. I’ll blast all his arguments into the ground.” Autumn said, her lips twisting upwards in an expectant smile.

* * *

Colette Brewnell sat at a large round table with various specialists and advisors. They all had tablet computers out with various informative data to help inform their decisions. It was their job to come up with a war strategy, now that war had been forced upon them. The odds of victory did not seem very high, but with careful planning, those odds could be made better, even if by a little. Since their only choice was to fight or die, it really didn't matter how low the odds were -- they would fight to the last man. At the very least, they would make the homo sapiens remember the price of their decision for the rest of time.

Colette double tapped one of the documents on her tablet, maximizing it to fill the screen. It was a list of their precious 19 psychics, the vanguard of their fighting forces. One of them was her daughter. From top to bottom, it read:

F -- Nordic -- Autumn Brewnell -- Telekinesis.

F -- Nordic -- Norn Lyles -- Illusion.

M -- Med -- Toland Ordun -- Electricity.

F -- East Asian -- Mia Takashi -- Pyrokinesis

F -- Nordic -- Katja Kiel -- Teleportation

F -- Nordic -- Valentine Winter -- Mind Control

M -- Med -- Phillip Bass -- Momentum

M -- Brown -- Ardut Singh -- Telepathy

M -- Brown -- Richard Mendez -- Mind-Machine interface.

M -- Jewish -- Benjamin Feinmann -- Psychic Spikes

M -- East Asian -- Hoh Er -- Sleep.

F -- East Asian -- Hitomi Machida -- Psionic Hands

M -- East Asian -- Ma Suh -- Geomancy

F -- Mixed East Asian/Jewish -- Azusa Riemann -- ESP

M -- Nordic -- Jurgen Jaeger -- Puppeteering

M -- Med -- Felix Jones -- Conjuring

F -- Mixed East Asian/Nordic -- Aisia Vereninkov -- Physics

F -- Mixed Brown/Med -- Georgia Wheeler -- Healing

F -- Med -- Ivy Brooke -- Copying

Somehow, a strategy had to be devised wherein these nineteen kids fought the overwhelming proportion of the coming war. The dissident community numbered perhaps five million. Their opponents, the homo sapiens, had five billion members. They were outnumbered 1,000 to 1. Fighting a conventional war would be ridiculous, no matter how much smarter and stronger her people were. The most they could do for their psychics was provide logistics support and hideouts where they could sleep in peace. But how could nineteen psychics defeat armed forces that could number 500 million strong? Nuclear weapons, tanks, planes, carriers, submarines, artillery, and mass infantry had been the weapons of choice for centuries. There hadn't been much innovation after the collective decision to embrace equality, either in weapons or domestic life. Actually, there had been -- psychics were certainly an innovation -- but that innovation was currently restricted to their own side. Everything else looked largely the same as it had centuries ago, except that all national borders had long since disappeared, there hadn't been any wars in forever, and the world government had kept a tight and disciplined hold on the world with an overwhelming military superiority and willingness to use it in the interests of their ideals.

"What are the odds the homo sapiens will discover our hideouts?" Colette asked the committee.

"With Norn's illusions covering them? As far as we know, zero." Viscotti answered.

"That's a plus." Colette tapped the table with her fingernails. "The plan is simple then, isn't it? We will teleport either mass destruction teams or assassination teams to either destroy military forces or command and control forces, then teleport them back to base once they're done. All fighting will be on our terms. The location of new targets will be determined by Azusa Riemann. Katja Kiel will ferry our members back and forth. Norn will wipe their identities and give them new ones when they return to base. Georgia will stand by at base to heal any wounded, with Katja as our emergency evacuator. Ivy and Felix will upkeep our supplies indefinitely. Mass Destruction Team will include: Toland, Mia, Phillip, Aisia, Ma, Hoh, Jurgen, and Richard. Assassination team will include: Autumn, Hitomi, Benjamin, Ardut and Valentine."

"May I suggest we give one assassination type to the MDT and one mass destruction type to the AT?" Wa asked crisply, typing names into her spreadsheet.

"That makes sense, they may need each other's ability for some reason. Very well, Toland will join AT and Valentine will join the MDT. Will that suffice?" Colette asked Wa.

"Yes, thank you." Wa clicked and dragged the appropriate names. "This puts a lot of pressure on Katja." Wa pointed out.

"We'll limit our attacks to her schedule. She can tell us to stop and let her rest at any time. The same for Azusa who's finding our targets in the first place." Colette decided.

"That seems reasonable." Wa agreed. Then the council stared at their tablets silently.

"Will it work? Pinprick raids from an unassailable location?" Viscotti finally asked.

"I suppose time will tell." Colette answered him firmly. In any event, they were committed. "Have Azusa gather some intelligence for us. We need to know the location of every major army facility, troop gathering, weapons manufacturing plant, and every government meeting place, official or unofficial, as well as their domestic residences."

"Dams, bridges, refineries?" Hal asked.

"Why would we want to destroy those? They'll all belong to us soon. Our war is with people, not things. I personally like things." Colette smiled. The table laughed politely with her.

* * *

"So if your policies have nothing to do with race, why isn't everyone mixed race yet?" Kip Miles asked Autumn over their traditional library table.

"Because race is correlated to what we do care about: intelligence, personality, behavior, and ideology. That doesn't mean we care about race, it means Nature cares about race, and there's nothing we can do about that." Autumn answered patiently, having regained her spirit from Norn's pep talk about breaking Kip's spirit.

"But race is just a social construct. It can't possibly correlate to anything real or important in life." Kip objected.

"How do you know that? Because you were told that in school?" Autumn sneered derisively. "For hundreds of years all scientific evidence, all scientific studies, have shown that intelligence correlates to race. Even the size of our brains correlates to race. You can simply look at a human skull and know which race it belongs to, if you have any professional knowledge. Average black IQ was 70, average brown IQ, which includes hispanics, Indians, arabs, and southeast Asians, was 85, average white IQ, which includes people of European descent, was 100, and average yellow IQ, which includes China and Japan, was 105."

"That must have really galled you, that Asians were smarter." Kip smirked.

"Not really. All of those averages are retarded compared to me." Autumn pleasantly returned his smile. "You see, we weren't interested in average people in the first place. But there are statistical laws that have implications here. The 68-95-99.7 rule, or three-sigma rule, or empirical rule, states that for a normal distribution, nearly all values lie within 3 standard deviations of the mean. About 68.27% of the values lie within 1 standard deviation of the mean. Similarly, about 95.45% of the values lie within 2 standard deviations of the mean. 99.73% of the values lie within 3 standard deviations of the mean. 15 IQ points, for a human, is a standard deviation. Our community at its founding had a minimum IQ of 120. It now has a minimum IQ of 140. You aren't allowed to breed if you don't have at least that high an IQ. We never discriminated on the basis of race, but because of racial differences in average intelligence, and the laws of statistics, the vast majority of human beings are descended from whites and yellows. It's simple math, so let me walk you through it: In the 21st century, when we began our program, the world was roughly 25% East Asian, 16% white, 21% South Asian, 8% Hispanic, 8% Middle Eastern, 9% Southeast Asian, and 15% black. For a black to qualify for our basic IQ cutoff, they would need to be over 3 standard deviations from the norm. IE, perhaps 1 in 10,000 blacks could have qualified. Of course, it gets worse for blacks, because such an outlier must face another statistical reality, regression to the mean. Even if he is intelligent, that intelligence is due to a unique combination of genes. Since he isn't cloning himself, but only randomly passing down half of his genes to his children, odds are, if his race is dumb, that the genes will regress back towards the average. His children will have an even lower than 1 in 10,000 chance of being 120 IQ. No black whatsoever was found with 140+ IQ. We can assume that any such intelligent black must have interbred with a non-black and become mixed race long ago. Therefore, you won't find any blacks in our community. And good riddance. This is just one of our filters. Blacks wouldn't have qualified due to their bad personalities, behavior, and looks even if they had been intelligent enough to stay." Autumn took a sip of orange juice before continuing.

"What about the 85 IQ group? That would take slightly over 2 standard deviations to initially qualify. At 46% of the population, we are then looking at maybe 3% of that 46% qualifying. For a world population of 7 billion, that's 97 million browns who could have made the first cut." Autumn was interrupted before she could go on.

"7 billion? But the world only has 5 billion people today!" Kip objected.

"Back then the world was smarter, more competent, and could rely on fossil fuels instead of renewable energy. It was easy to support a larger world population. Now concentrate." Autumn brushed his objection aside.

"For whites, they only needed to be slightly above one standard deviation from the mean. This means we were accepting 30% of 16% of the world's population of 7 billion, so 48 million people qualified." Autumn said.

"There! Look! Nearly twice as many browns qualify, even with this crazy intelligence scheme, than whites. So everyone should be brown, just like the outside world." Kip leaned back triumphantly.

"As I was saying." Autumn drawled out patiently. "East Asians, with 105 IQ, only needed to be one standard deviation above the norm, which meant 32% of 25% of world population of 7 billion, or 80 million qualifiers. To further complicate matters, the lightest skinned arabs, hispanics, and Indians were still basically pure white at the time, and they also tended to be the high IQ portions of their populations. If, say, half of the smart fraction of browns were basically light-skinned whites, the numbers move yet again: 80 million light skinned East Asians, 48 million light skinned whites, 48.5 million light skinned browns, and 48.5 million dark skinned browns. Of course, this isn't accurate either, because Southeast Asians don't have any white admixture like hispanics and Indians had. In any event, this gave us an overwhelming weighted average towards light, though not white, skin, of 176.5 million qualifying candidates compared to 48.5 million. Or, a light to dark ratio of 364%."

"That still doesn't explain your hair and eye color. Plus, you're alabaster, not just creamy or whatever." Kip pointed out.

"Ah, yes, but intelligence was just the first filter. Our ancestors were encouraged to filter on the basis of physical ability, health, and looks as well. Who do you think came out on top of that competition?" Autumn asked.

"Beauty is subjective." Kip said authoritatively.

"Just like race is a social construct? Just like skull shapes are social constructs? Stop kidding yourself. You're attracted to me for the same reason everyone is -- whites are the most beautiful race of all time, and our distinct hair and eye colors are part of our uniquely superior beauty. Oh, and by the way, blonde, blue-eyed, nordic whites formed a significantly larger segment of the smart fraction than our brown haired, brown eyed med cousins further south, so again there were many more of us than you'd expect." Autumn explained casually.

"See? It all comes back down to race." Kip complained.

"No, it came back down to looks. If your race magically had the same looks as us, no one was going to do a genetic mapping and reject you on the basis of the DNA results. We never once cared about anyone's genotype. It's the phenotype that counts, and we can't help that we have the best looking people on Earth. By the way, looks wasn't the only factor either. Do you have any idea how slanted the results in the Olympics were, before they were banned?" Autumn asked.

"I don't know, but I suppose blacks won all the medals. After all, Jesse Owens proved to Hitler that blacks were superior." Kip Miles got back on solid ground.

"The 1936 Olympics?" Autumn laughed happily. "Let me tell you the results of the 1936 Olympics. Germany won 89 medals that year. The United States, with their 'great black hopes,' only won 56 medals. This even though the United States vastly out populated Germany. The 1936 Olympics was a perfect showing of white athletic supremacy. Everything you were taught in school was a lie."

"So what, Jesse Owens didn't win the long jump competition?" Kip challenged.

"No, he did, and good for him. But who cares? That's just comparing one tiny anecdote to the statistical reality of absolute European dominance. Every Olympics came up with the same answers. Blacks were okay at running based events, and things similar to running like speed skating, but they were absolutely hopeless in all other fields, or anything requiring intelligence or skill. Meanwhile, East Asians were competent at sophisticated sports that require good reflexes or self-control, but hopeless when it came to raw contests of strength. Browns of all types were bad at everything. They couldn't win any medals in anything. Whites generally won 70% of all Olympic medals. Of those whites, a disproportionate amount had blonde hair and blue eyes. So if we wanted to select on the basis of athleticism, which we did, who were we going to choose?" Autumn asked Kip.

"But that isn't due to actual ability. It was a white system that was just designed to favor whites." Kip complained.

"Setting aside how on Earth objective competitions can be set up to favor anyone, the very fact that whites had the power to set up the system proves their superiority. Why were the Olympics the Olympics? Why did the world play the sports that whites had invented and perfected, and not some other, non-white sport? Because everyone admitted our sports were the best and our competition the most legitimate and prestigious. Non-whites could have boycotted our Olympics and set up their own system, if they were so afraid of bias. But instead they participated, thus endorsing what the fair, objective results would be, and we simply won every time. A white system? The whole world is a white system, because whites invented the modern world and everything in it. Of course we'll be competing in a 'white system.' But that doesn't change the fundamental question. If whites weren't superior, how were they able to force everyone into a 'white system' in the first place?" Autumn asked Kip.

"Racism. Oppression. Violence." Kip suggested.

"And why were whites able to defeat all other parties militarily?" Autumn asked sweetly. "Do I need to go into detail about all white vs. non-white wars, and the relative success rates of these conflicts?"

"Being good at violence doesn't make you superior." Kip complained.

"Of course it does. It is the most essential trait in life. If you can't win a war, then you can't have anything else either, because it will simply be taken from you by someone who can. I would say the best trait of all is power. Everything else is subordinate. All life is a struggle for existence, a war of all against all. That's just how evolution works. Only in your sheltered fairy land of equality could it be any other way. And now the wars have begun again, a war that won't be decided by any other virtue, but only power. The future of the Earth will be decided but who has more power, us or them. Don't you think a racial trait that makes you more powerful is very useful and very relevant to any equation, therefore?" Autumn asked.

"Well even if it's true, it shouldn't be." Kip grumbled. "Conflicts should be resolved through reason not force."

"Tell that to the marriage lottery law." Autumn sneered. "We didn't start this war."

"I know." Kip admitted grudgingly. "But you don't have to like it."

"Fascinating. So to you, the ideal human should be depressed at all times about his own essential nature?" Autumn asked.

"Well, yeah." Kip said.

"I'll keep that in mind." Autumn shook her head at the hopeless boy across the table. "Meanwhile, let me continue my lesson. Once you select for looks, athleticism, and intelligence, browns start falling off the map, and you're around even between whites and East Asians. But it doesn't stop there. Next we had to select for personality. Guess who's more likely to conform to the consensus, and who's more rebellious and free spirited?"

"Let me guess, whites." Kip sighed.

"Bingo. East Asians basically do anything they're told. Therefore, fewer of them were interested in defying the world government and creating a separate, dissident shadow government and community than there were willing whites. Browns had even worse personality traits. They were too impulsive to stick to basic moral laws we set down for our community. Whites were bad at this too, compared to Asians, but browns were the worst." Autumn explained.

"Basic moral laws? For people on welfare plotting genocide?" Kip looked up at Autumn's cornflower eyes in surprise.

"Everyone has a morality, Kip. Trust me when I tell you I find your morality just as disgusting as you pretend to find mine." Autumn's face became cold and closed. "In our moral code, abortion is wrong, period. So is divorce, adultery, pre-marital sex, drinking, smoking, drugs, homosexuality, slander, lying, staying single, obesity, slovenliness, ignorance, irrationality, and cowardice. So you see, we actually have standards here. If you can't meet our standards, you're gone, no matter how smart, good looking, or athletic you are. Obviously, any sort of criminality also meant you were out the door. Browns couldn't control their impulses. They were almost as bad as blacks. Therefore they weeded themselves out over time. A few generations and they all had made a mistake at some point. We aren't interested in failures who make mistakes. We were breeding a new species, we were flawless individuals and we only wanted to mate with other flawless individuals. Browns simply couldn't abide by our simple rules. They were corrupt, cowardly, criminal, lying, promiscuous drunkards. You would think intelligence would have filtered all these behavioral traits away, but even with matching intellect, it turns out browns are three times as basically immoral as whites. Perhaps it was their culture. Or perhaps it was hormones. Who knows. In any event, brown dissidents, which by intelligence only were only 1/4 of the possible population, was cut down to 1/10 when you took into account looks, health, and athleticism, and 1/30 when you took into account personality and behavior. Then there was one further filter. Ideology. Our basic intellectual roots stem from the Greeks -- Plato and Aristotle. They were later adapted by people like Darwin, Nietzsche, Galton, and Hitler into more modern, scientific forms. The number of whites willing to follow this European tradition of thought was disproportionate compared to the number of qualifying browns and yellows, who considered this entire movement anti-them and not-them. Even though we had an open invitation, barely any Jews joined our fold, because they could see how clearly connected we were to Nazi Germany, who had for its own reasons tried to kill off the Jews. As a result, out of the 5 million dissidents worldwide, 50% are white, 20% are East Asian, 20% are mixed race, and 10% are brown. Even if we wanted to perfectly mix everyone up, there would still be whites left over, simply because they would have no one to pair up with. But we don't want to mix everything up. Because the beauty of the white aryan woman should never perish from the Earth. For that matter, East Asians with their silky hair, slim figures and slanted eyes are also too precious to destroy. And even dusky types must have some advantages. What's the point in destroying them all for a mindless love of homogeneity? We share our ideals and our hopes. Why look the same too? It's just a waste of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution for no gain."

"You're the intellectual heirs of Hitler? The most evil man to ever live?" Kip sputtered, seizing on her most inexcusable statement. "Why are you just admitting this? Don't you feel any shame, any decency?"

"Hitler, and Nazi Germany, was the first country to organize itself along scientific lines. It put evolution and eugenics front and center in all conversations. It proudly embraced its greco-roman cultural legacy, while rejecting Asiatic religious nonsense imported by the Jews. How could we ever turn our back on Hitler? That would turn our back on everything we care about." Autumn Brewnell said.

"That just proves everything you care about is evil. If you care about the same things as Hitler, you're caring about the wrong things!" Kip tried to rescue this poor brainwashed girl.

"Hitler designed the volkswagon beetle, one of the best cars ever built. Is caring about the beetle evil?" Autumn asked.

"Well. . .no." Kip admitted.

"Hitler designed the autobahn. Is wanting large, fast roads evil?" Autumn asked.

"No." Kip admitted.

"Hitler passed laws against animal cruelty. Is banning animal cruelty evil?" Autumn asked.

"No. We still do that today." Kip defended.

"Hitler created national parks. Are national parks evil?" Autumn asked.

"Everyone enjoys the national park system." Kip admitted.

"So there's basically zero correlation between agreeing with Hitler about something and being wrong about something?" Autumn raised an eyebrow.

"You were cherry picking." Kip complained.

"So? You said agreeing with Hitler was evil, a priori. Care to say that again?" Autumn asked sweetly.

"Forget about that. Agreeing with Hitler about race is evil." Kip said.

"But when did we ever agree with Hitler about race? We only agreed with him about science, eugenics, Plato, Aristotle, and atheism. I don't agree with him about race. None of us do." Autumn answered cheerfully.

"Then why mention him as an inspiration!" Kip complained.

"Because if we don't, you will anyway, and then we'll be stuck looking like cowardly liars if we deny it. Either we justify Hitler or you keep throwing him in our faces forever, and thus keep our entire movement unjustified forever. We learned the answer long ago. There was no path to the future without embracing our past. I'm a proud Hitlerian neo-nazi. If that's what you want to call us, that's fine. I'm also a Platonic neo-platonist, but no one wants to call me that. No matter what label you call us, it doesn't change anything. We are who we are, what you see around you today. Your labels can't change any of that. If everything good is labeled Nazi, that just means Nazis are everything good about this world. In the end you still have to judge things by what you see in front of your own eyes, not what labels you are told to slap on to subjects. Are we good, or are we evil? This is the question you have to ask yourself. Wasting time quibbling over whether we're Nazis or not -- here, let me solve the problem for you -- yes, we're a bunch of Nazis. So, that question is out of the way. The only question you need to answer, then, is whether we're good or evil. This is what Kip needs to ask himself. Not what socially constructed thought crime label we fall under. Just simply this, are we good or are we evil? Is the society we have built for ourselves good or evil? Are the people in it superior or inferior to the people outside of it? Are we happier or less happy than the rest of you? Do we have a brighter or dimmer future than the rest of you? Look around you, Kip. Are we not beautiful, proud, strong, honest, bright, courageous lions? Isn't this what humans should look like? So what if we're Nazis too? What does anything matter except results?" Autumn challenged Kip.

"Look around me? What can I see except you and my room?" Kip grumbled.

"And yet you called me beautiful." Autumn said.

"You are." Kip sighed. "Why do you think I'm here? Why do you think I'm listening? Just give me time. This is all new to me."

"I don't want to give you time. You're intelligent. You should have figured this out on the first day. What are you wasting my time for?" Autumn complained.

"I was raised to hate you." Kip said.

"And? Are you just going to let those imbeciles control your own beliefs? What do you want to believe, Kip?" Autumn leaned forward to stare him in the face.

"I want to. . . Never mind." Kip stood up angrily. It's not like she'd accept any confession of love anyway, or believe him if he said it. Yesterday she had said she detested him, and now she pretended like it hadn't even happened. Kip couldn't stand this girl, or all of her unsettling questions. He wanted to leave. Only they'd kill him if he did, as an obvious security threat. He was trapped. Trapped by her looks, her logic, and her threats. He hated them all.

"Then that's lesson enough. Go read a book or something. Learn something!" Autumn glared at the hopeless halfwit. She picked up her reference materials and left the library. Even then Kip couldn't help but watch her hips sway and her hair swish back and forth across her back. She was perfect. And she wanted nothing to do with him. And the moment he did 'learn,' she would leave him forever.


Chapter 4


Norn Lyles swallowed the bile trying to rise up in her mouth. She had promised her friend to help, Toland was with her, and Kip wasn't really a monkey. Colette said he could be human if his education stuck. Going to visit a monkey's room at night in these circumstances wasn't strange at all. Norn had white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her friend, though perhaps a dirtier blonde than Autumn's. They had been together since they were kids, always there to comfort each other after all the bullying at school had completely worn them down, no matter how often their parents had told them to ignore the other children. How could you ignore them when they surrounded you, yelled at you, pushed you, or grabbed your hair? It was all well for the adults who were safe, but Norn vowed to herself that her children would never attend school with homo sapiens. It was simply tossing them into a lion's den. It was torture. It was child neglect. They should have gone to war earlier, when home schooling was banned. That should have been the line in the sand. But at the time, we didn't have psychics. So maybe I'm just fantasizing that there was any choice. Before I was born, humans never stood a chance. I am their shield, the guardian of our entire species. I had to grow up first. But my kids won't have to grow up in their prisons called schools. Because I'm going to win this war. As strong as Katja or Azusa were, it was obvious to Norn that she was basically the entire war. If they could strike their enemies without being located, there was no possibility of a counterattack. If there was no possibility of a counterattack, eventually their side would win. So long as her illusions made any sensors or people who entered the area not see what was directly in front of their eyes, humans would win this war. Even if we had to sally forth on foot and with nothing but rifles, with Norn's illusions they probably would win the war. Who ever heard of losing a war when you still possessed an unassailable fortress? How many centuries did Byzantium hold off the Turks with just one city's unbreachable walls? Illusions were stronger walls than anything material. Therefore humans could not lose to today's Turks either, no matter how numerous or vast.

Her blue eyes and blonde hair wouldn't last through the next generation, which was sad. Her fiance, Toland Ordun, had brown hair and brown eyes, a typical white everyman, whose colors were dominant to her recessives. But their children's hair and eye colors weren't as important as matching psychics with psychics, in the hopes of creating more psychics. Norn wasn't only going to win this war single-handedly for mankind, she was also going to be the origin of a new, better race than anything that had come before. Brown haired children was an acceptable sacrifice, when you added it all up. Norn smiled inside her head -- Though only just barely -- and knocked on Kip's door.

"Coming." Norn heard from the other side of the door, and she had to gulp again to steel herself against the coming encounter. She wasn't afraid of Kip, not in a physical sense. But she did fear somehow becoming contaminated by him, by his words or mere presence, and not being able to shower herself clean no matter how long she stayed in the water. It was a fear below the level of rationality. She just couldn't stand muds. Toland was lucky. He would get to kill them directly. How fun it must have been for Autumn escaping school. All I did was walk out of the school with the illusion I was still there. Illusion sucked sometimes.

The door opened, and Kip's face went from surprised to slightly panicked. "Did I do something wrong?" He asked, Toland hulking menacingly behind Norn.

"Not at all, Kip." Norn winced internally and bit her tongue. She hadn't meant to say it that contemptuously. She had just taken one look at his face and it had sprung out. "Autumn was worried that you weren't making any friends or meeting any new people, and asked us if we could help."

"Really? She said that?" Kip's eyebrows lifted in wonder, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"More or less." Norn blushed slightly. Autumn had asked Norn to take over. It was close enough, though Kip seemed to be drawing way too many positive connotations from it. "I'm Norn Lyles, and this is Toland Ordun, my fiance. Can we come in?"

"Oh, of course." Kip opened his door fully and stepped aside, showing his rather spartan quarters. Norn gracefully stepped across the floor and settled down on his bed, patting a spot next to her for Toland, who gave a respectful nod to Kip before joining her. Kip took the chair for his desk, and the three stared at each other again. Norn tried to keep a smile on her face.

"Thank you for the other day," Kip grinned amicably, his white teeth set against his dark skin was grotesque. Monkeys can't help their looks. Norn reminded herself. He didn't mean any harm.

"That? It wasn't for you, it was for Autumn. I'd do anything for Autumn." Norn brushed the praise away.

"Even so, you saved my life." Kip protested. "Though, it does seem like a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, when I look back."

"Is it so bad here?" Norn asked compassionately.

"Well, it is a bit poorer than I'm used to. I wish I could have brought some things from home." Kip laughed. "A TV, a phone, a game station, and my music collection would be a good start."

"We try to get by." Norn explained sympathetically. "The government doesn't provide much for child support, and we're supporting a lot of children. Actually, this room would normally be shared."

Kip looked around at his bed and desk, wondering where anyone else could go. "How?"

"There's always room for one more." Norn smiled. "You could sleep two to a bed, no problem. And then there's sleeping in shifts. We all have to be awake at the same time for school, but that still leaves two shifts that can sleep during the rest of the day, one after getting home from school, and the other half from night until school is about to begin. Of course, adults don't have anywhere they need to be, so they can sleep in three shifts to the same bed. That gets you up to six people per room."

"But don't you feel suffocated?" Kip's mouth was agape. Was this a regular monkey feature or was it just Kip who always wore that dumb expression of amazement?

"We marry at eighteen, so we're either sleeping with our siblings, parents, spouses or children. It's really not a problem. I'd feel strange sleeping alone, to tell you the truth. Sharing a bed is comforting." Norn replied.

"But what if you want to experiment more before you settle down?" Kip asked.

"Experiment?" Norn asked, confused.

"You know, see if you like one person or another, or try out new things while you're single and without responsibilities tying you down." Kip explained.

"What does liking someone have to do with anything?" Norn asked. "Either you're a good person who will do your duty or you're not. A marriage succeeds if both parties are honorable, faithful, trustworthy and dutiful towards one another and their community. It doesn't require time or a special soulmate to figure out whether you will be that or not. It's an act of pure will. Either you intend to be a good person or you don't. It wouldn't matter who you married."

"So you don't love Toland?" Kip asked, looking from one person to the other.

"Of course I do." Norn's nose wrinkled, confused.

"But you just said marriages weren't based on affection." Kip complained.

"I'm confused at what you don't understand. Toland?" Norn appealed to her fiance.

"I think Kip believes love has something to do with 'chemistry' or 'attraction.'" Toland offered.

"But that's ridiculous." Norn complained. "I love Autumn but I'm not attracted to her."

"But spouses are different." Kip said.

"Why?" Norn asked.

"I. . .it's just common sense." Kip said.

"Whose common sense?" Norn asked. Marriage was for the sake of the species, they were arranged between members who were suited to each other, and then fulfilled out of duty towards one another. This way, everyone was married at the right time and could hurry up doing the important things in life, having and raising a family. How could life be arranged any other way? What about the people left out, who no one 'liked'? What would become of them?

Toland put a hand around Norn's waist, who snuggled appreciatively into his embrace. "Between two good people, nothing bad can happen, Kip. We love each other because we are both good people, who understand our honor and our duty. I trust Norn with my life, with my genes, with my future, everything. I know she will always be loyal to me. I've known since we were both kids. So has she. As far as attractiveness goes, it's not polite to point this out, but Norn is beautiful beyond belief. No boy could ever ask for more, or will be any happier on his wedding day. I'm not sure what you think we're missing, but I certainly don't feel a lack for it." Norn smiled at his praise. She had heard the like said before, but it was always wonderful, every time, because she knew how sincere he was about it every time.

"But what if you two were arranged to marry, but it turns out you don't get along?" Kip asked worrisomely. "I'm not saying I doubt you two. Just theoretically, what would happen?"

"We would learn to get along." Norn explained. "Because it's our duty to do so. For society, for the children, and for each other's happiness, it would be terrible if we couldn't stop fighting. So we would have to learn to accommodate each other."

"But what if you just couldn't stand each other? I mean, what if, say, you detested someone. . ." Kip trailed off, looking away.

Norn smiled, finally figuring out what he was talking about. "I think, even then, the only thing to do is remember your duty and go back to getting along. We don't abide bad people in our world. Therefore, there's got to be something good about your lover. I think you just have to remember the good things and forget about the bad, and do your best. Marriage is for life after all, and parents are the ones who decide who we're fit for. All we can do is our duty."

"So Autumn just appeared the next day ready to talk again because she remembered her duty?" Kip asked, putting two and two together.

"She's a pretty rebellious child, Autumn." Norn smiled. "It's probably because she doesn't have a fiance. She doesn't know who she should be, unlike the rest of us. It must be a huge strain."

"She's single? With those looks?" Kip was amazed.

"Like I said, it wouldn't matter what she looked like. Her parents would find her a partner either way. But Autumn's an exception. We can't afford to pair a psychic with a non-psychic, not when psychic genes could be disrupted and destroyed thereby. We didn't have enough men this generation, so Autumn has to wait for the next generation to grow up before marrying. It's tough, but it's her duty. We all have our fields to hoe." Norn explained.

"So the next male psychic is basically her betrothed already?" Kip asked.

"You could say that." Norn said. "Surely you didn't think you could. . ." Norn started to laugh, then held her hands over her mouth. "Sorry, I just. . ." Then she burst out laughing again, leaning over double on Kip's bed.

Kip's dark skin hid whatever reaction he had. "No, of course not. I wouldn't presume anything like that. . . I was just. . ." Kip gripped the edge of his chair fiercely. Norn tried to regain her serious face.

"Please, if you want to get along with Autumn, don't mention anything like that to her. She'd be furious if she thought you thought you could be her husband, or lover, or boyfriend, or whatever homo sapiens want out of girls." Norn said politely.

"Too late." Kip sighed.

"Seriously?" Norn spluttered. A lowly monkey proposed to my Autumn? That arrogant prick! Who does he think he is?

"I didn't realize you. . .had your own standards. I thought having fun together was the measure of a relationship. I certainly didn't know she was already pledged to someone." Kip said.

"No wonder she hates you!" Norn felt a little resentment herself. A relationship with someone not your fiance? Even the implication that you would engage in such a thing was an awful slander, it was calling a girl dishonorable to her face. "How are you even alive? Listen, Kip, we are virgins. Not just in body, but in mind too. We don't allow ourselves to fall in love or have romances with anyone but our husbands to be. If we did something like that, what would we have left to give our husbands? What would our marriage be anymore? It's just a sham, one relationship among many, nothing special or sacred at all. Whether you're with a boy before you marry or after, it's still cheating, because the same essential act is being performed -- you're whoring yourself out, and taking what was meant to be unique and making it a common, interchangeable, mass manufactured consumer good. Our hearts aren't consumer goods, we don't just churn them out on assembly lines. They're destined for just one boy. Just one, Kip. We fall in love once, love one person, and die their beloved. It's what any boy who lives with us and cares for us and protects us deserves, just as I deserve the same from any boy I live with, care for, and comfort. It would be a betrayal of everything -- I can't describe how dishonorable it would be to share these goods willy-nilly ahead of time. Do you know how sick, how revolting it would be if I could compare my husband's sexual performance to someone else's? If I weren't satisfied by him because I had already had better? How could we possibly live together then? And what if I met a boy who was more romantic and charming, or more sophisticated and witty, or funnier, or a better dancer, and I spent all day comparing and contrasting, wishing he were this boy or that I had met previously, never content with what I had? It would make me unhappy for life, because I could never appreciate my husband as the funniest, smartest, most charming, most romantic dancer I had ever met. I'd be like a rotten apple left out in the sun by the time I reached my marriage bed. Nothing but an ant-ridden corpse of a woman, overripe with too many experiences and too much baggage to be fit as anyone's companion."

"But what if you only married the best at everything?" Kip ventured.

"How many girls can get that one boy? What are you suggesting, polygamy?" Norn's hands balled up into fists, clutching at her skirt at just the idea of having to share Toland with ten or twenty other girls, never getting any time or any special memories alone with him.

"Well. . ." Kip took one look at her face and dropped it. "I just thought everyone married based on love these days, and everyone learned how to love through multiple romantic experiences. That's how my parents were. I'm sorry if I offended you, or Autumn. I had no idea."

"Just forget it." Norn Lyles relaxed the grip on her skirts. She understood Autumn's feelings now. Her blood pressure around this monkey was at a constant unsustainable high. "We were talking about poverty, weren't we? Have you tried to pick up a sport? Those can be played for free."

"I haven't had time. It's mainly been studying with Autumn, eating, and sleeping." Kip excused himself.

"We have sports leagues of all types. If you want to play a video game, we have a fighting sports league, and a first person shooter sports league, and a real time strategy sports league, that gets together every weekend for tournaments. They tend to get pretty loud." Norn smiled. "We don't have much, but with organization and sharing, this bunker can have a lot of fun. How are you supplied for books?"

Kip looked behind him at his bookshelf. "There's a lot."

"Who are your favorite authors? I could see about finding more in our library." Norn suggested helpfully.

"I guess. . . J.D. Salinger?" Kip Miles offered.

"Oh come on. A real author." Norn demanded. Anything they had read in school to get the proper politically correct beliefs was a complete waste of time as literature.

"Then. . .I guess the Bible." Kip decided.

"The Bible? Seriously? 'And then He smote the million Egyptian children because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and God can do whatever he wants so who cares?'" Norn asked, a sneer hooking one of her lips despite herself.

"I believe in Jesus and redemption." Kip said proudly.

"I guess we could find a Bible for you. Humans aren't religious, though. Superstitious nonsense is only fit for cave men. So if you want to join us, you're going to have to ditch that belief. I guess I could go tell Colette if you won't budge on this. You call that martyrdom, right?" Norn asked curiously.

"Err. .. yes. . .I. . .maybe I'll think on it a bit longer then." Kip said, shaken.

"I hope so, Kip, for Autumn's sake. She'll look bad if after all these classes you're still spouting ridiculous stuff like belief in a God in the sky with a big beard watching over us all." Norn laughed at the very concept.

"But look, it's getting late. How about I just loan you some books I like? You don't have enough taste to even know what you should be reading. For starters, we can have Lensmen, and Requiem for Homo Sapiens, and Wheel of Time. Light reading even a homo sapien can follow. If you start to enjoy yourself more in the evening, I'm sure you won't fight Autumn as much in the morning, right? She's pretty upset after your fights, you know."

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to. . .it just happens." Kip apologized. "Lensman, was it? I'd love to have your favorite books to read, Norn."

Norn grimaced at him calling her by her name, but she supposed it was only fair. She had called him Kip over and over. It's just silly for a monkey to think he could talk as an equal with a real human being. Nevermind. He'll learn faster now. And all thanks to me.

"I'll come back tomorrow night with some books then. How about we all stay up together reading? Then if you have a scene you like, you can talk to us about it immediately. Or if you want to debate something, we'll be ready for you." Norn suggested.

"I wouldn't want to intrude on you two." Kip held up his palms.

"Nonsense. We're already friends now, right?" Norn gave her winningest smile to the parrot. Her family had never withstood this smile.

"I. . .thank you. You're the nicest girl. . .ever. . ." Kip looked worriedly at Toland, who still didn't seem jealous.

"We're all this nice. You just aren't paying enough attention." Norn reassured him. "Autumn's way nicer than I am. Just be nicer to her and you'll see. Okay?" Norn smiled again. Norn didn't have to fake her smile. She was always happy when she fulfilled her promises.

* * *

"If you don't work, what do people do around here?" Kip asked Autumn, having had a refreshing sleep and a good breakfast, determined to get along this time like Norn had asked of him. It was funny. Norn had the same exotic looks as Autumn, plus or minus a few shades, but he hadn't been half as captivated by her. Probably it was because she was being escorted by her fiance. But Kip knew it was more than that. Even if Norn was easier to get along with, Autumn's personality was more commanding. She took over any room she was in with a casual toss of her head or sweep of her arm. There were things about her no one else had. Something a flat picture of the two girls side by side could never capture. Basically, Autumn was more beautiful by far. Knowing that made Kip feel a little better. He wasn't just chasing after a pretty pair of legs, or forbidden fruit. Maybe he wasn't in love with Autumn Brewnell. But he wasn't just a rutting beast who only wanted her for one thing either.

"Nothing special. Norn has an illusion up over a wide area of this forest. Within these boundaries, we can do whatever we like. A lot of women enjoy gardening. The children play tag and hide and seek. Older children and adults play sports together. Until recently, most of us were attending school, and then we came home to do our real studies, as directed by our parents, with just a little time set aside for recreation before bed. Now that we have everyone in hiding, the children are just being accelerated along their home schooling courses with the extra time. Older siblings generally look after younger siblings five and under. Kids over the age of five are in the school system and expected to do their studies and not cause trouble. Parents manage their children's education and their material needs, resolve disputes between kids, have more kids, do chores and pursue hobbies. For instance, if there's a problem with the air conditioner, or toilet, or the electricity goes out, we ask a specialist who knows what he's doing for help, grab some spare parts we have set aside in our warehouse, and fix it." Autumn explained.

"But why would any of you have any useful skills, or be willing to help each other? Isn't laziness king here?" Kip asked.

"Believe it or not, lots of boys enjoy making and fixing things just for fun. Plus, we aren't rugged individualists here. This is a collective enterprise. Everyone here is part of an extended family -- mankind -- the last true humans on Earth. We care about each other enough to do little things like plumbing repairs. For someone with the expertise, it generally only takes a few minutes. We're all so smart that learning the skill, or practicing it, is completely compatible with laziness. It just comes easily for anyone who bothers." Autumn answered.

"So do you have a special skill that you never intend to make money with?" Kip asked, curious.

"Sewing. I love taking old clothes and seeing what I can do with them to make them look better on people. I suppose there's nothing to be done for faded-out clothes without dyeing them all over again, but everything else can be mended and adorned to be good as new. I sew for my entire family, and lots of girls have come to me for help making a new dress. Since it's a chance to try out new designs they or I came up with, it's always fun and exciting." Autumn said.

"I thought you'd say telekinesis." Kip smiled, amazed at how domestic and feminine this genocidal mass murderer had suddenly sounded.

"You're right. I guess that is the more proper answer, come to think of it." Autumn blinked thoughtfully. "But telekinesis doesn't have as many useful applications as sewing at home, so I pretty much forget about it here."

"What's it like, being a psychic?" Kip asked.

"I don't know, since I can't imagine being anything else. It's like asking what it's like to see colors. You just do. It's weird not to see colors, since the world is in color after all. But you're asking too many questions about me. Focus, Kip." Autumn's tone became more strict.

"Sorry." But Kip wasn't sorry. He loved learning more about her. "Actually, I wanted to apologize about something else. Norn came to my room last night and explained to me about . . . virginity." Kip tread carefully, not wanting to offend her again. "I'm a virgin too you know. I didn't find anyone but you attractive, and you said no. But you already knew that, we were in the same class together, so it was impossible not to know. . ."

Autumn nodded with a flat, thin mouth, brushing his rambling aside as she waited for a point.

"Anyway, I'm sorry I asked you for no-fault sex. I realize what I did was wrong now. Not just by your standards. By any standards. It's wrong to have sex outside of love and marriage. I can see that now. It's cheapening something whose value is exactly in proportion to its rarity, and it's something we can't afford to cheapen, since marriages need all the help they can get to stay together. Serial polygamy or just straight polygamy cheapens sex, love, and marriage. Everything just becomes an ugly imitation of itself, a mockery of real bonds that have real strength and real meaning. No matter how much people try to fool themselves, there's no such thing as sex that doesn't matter. It matters every time. But there can be people who don't matter. People who have sex like it doesn't matter don't degrade the importance of sex -- they degrade themselves. The same for people who get in relationships and then break them like they don't matter. And the same for people who marry and then divorce, or marry and still have affairs on the side. I was degrading myself, and degrading you, by even thinking you could participate in such an act." Kip Miles let his heart out.

"Thank you, Kip." Autumn nodded her head politely. "But you should have known that without Norn explaining anything. You should have known that before you ever came here or ever saw me. No fault sex is a disgusting concept innately. You don't have to be told why. Your heart can give you the answer in a flash, if you had ever listened. So no, I still don't forgive you. Your fault is more basic than you think. There's just something wrong with you, to have played along with another of society's tricks, another great leveling force that was designed solely to break women's will to discriminate and choose carefully who they would award with their bodies and who they would deny. You wanted to use no fault sex to get me precisely because you knew you couldn't win my heart legitimately. You're a bully who was using the system to rape me. That's what every man who approaches a girl for no fault sex is doing. Otherwise, why not wait for the girls to ask you? How many girls did you see asking boys for sex?" Autumn asked Kip sweetly.

Kip thought about it for a moment. He didn't recall a single time. The thought surprised him. Surely once? He reviewed his memories again. Not once. Girls didn't say no when asked. . .but they always waited until they were asked. Was Autumn right? Were they pressured into doing something they never would have willingly done on their own initiative? Or maybe they were just modest or it was just the custom or they were more afraid of rejection or -- give it up. No matter what excuses you could give the other boys, you know you asked Autumn because there was no other way to get her. She never looked at you twice before then. It was absurd to think she had actually wanted to have sex with him. Insane. Which meant he had never wanted her consent. He had wanted her under duress. Was that rape? Not exactly. But it wasn't innocent either.

"There was a demon inside of me, in that school. At home. Everywhere. I couldn't get rid of it. It didn't go away until you were dragged out of the classroom. I banished that demon because I had to, because I couldn't lie to myself anymore, when I thought you would disappear from my life forever. That's the only excuse I can give you." Kip said, wondering how he could apologize more profusely.

"We don't believe in superstitions here, Kip. You weren't possessed by a demon, you just were a demon." Autumn smiled at him toothily, her blue eyes flashing in a cat like, vertical manner.

"I. . .Norn told me about that too. Would you really kill me just for believing in God?" Kip changed the subject.

"Yes and no. We plan on killing all homo sapiens, and part of why we despise homo sapiens is their ridiculous clinging to 3,000 year old religions invented by prehistoric savages. But we wouldn't have killed you any faster than irreligious homo sapiens except that you're here in our secret base and we can never allow a non-human to know our location. In this case, killing you for believing in God is just a matter of survival. Either you're going to join us or you're going to die. We can't trust someone who stays on the sideline or equivocates with the knowledge you now possess. Surely you understand." Autumn said.

"Have you ever read the Bible? What if it's all true, and you're all wrong?" Kip asked.

"Yes, I've read the Bible. And the Koran. And the Bhagivad Gita. And the Book of Mormon. And the Hadith. And the Upanishads. Have you?" Autumn arced an eyebrow.

Kip stared at her in consternation. When had she found the time to read all those texts? What the hell religion was the Upanishads in the first place? "Well, when you read the Bible, did you pray? If you don't pray to the Holy Ghost, the Bible won't inspire you, you won't see that it's True." Kip challenged Autumn.

"I prayed with all my heart and all my soul. I asked God to give me a sign, any sign, that He existed, and pledged my eternal loyalty to Him if He did. Since He didn't, that was that." Autumn answered with a level gaze.

"But you can't test God like that." Kip explained.

"Why not? His own apostles did, they didn't believe Christ had resurrected until they actually met and saw him. God gave signs to all of his prophets. So if he wanted me, all he had to do was treat me fairly and equally, just like the people he convinced in the past. What do I owe a God who won't even treat me fairly? Kip, how serious are you about this nonsense? You could save us all a lot of time by just proclaiming yourself a living testament to Christ and letting us crucify or burn you to death, however you please. Maybe we could find a lion to feed you to, or throw you into a furnace like with Daniel. I'm not here because I enjoy our chats. So if you're going to preach to me about a God that abandoned me long ago, I'd really rather just go tell Mother that it's hopeless. Which is a shame, because you were sounding human for a second back there." Autumn gave half a smile to him. It was the first time she had complimented him -- and so of course it was accompanied by a long litany of death threats. Autumn was Autumn, after all. A was A. Kip grinned inside his head at his pun.

"I always believed in God. How can I just stop believing?" Kip asked.

"By realizing how stupid it all is. Is this really God's world? Is this something a God would make? An omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent being? Why is this world so shoddy that any human can improve upon it? What is God doing? It's absurd. It's just too ridiculous to even argue about. Only brain dead idiots believe in God. Are you really a brain dead idiot, Kip?" Autumn asked angrily.

"But don't you believe in anything? Otherwise, what's the point?" Kip complained.

Autumn Brewnell smiled, and then leaned back. She eased her long hair over her shoulder so it wouldn't be pinned against the couch, and stroked it self-consciously. "I do believe, though others would call me silly for it. I do believe something."

Kip had never seen Autumn more beautiful than that half wistful, half embarrassed, totally solemn small oval her lips had formed into.

Autumn leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, just a few inches away from his face. "God is asleep. We were born to wake the sleeping God. God will be awake when our intelligence and virtue equals his own. Someday, our eyes will stop seeing all these normal, human perceptions, and become the eyes of God. He will see everything through us, and we will all be a part of him. A vision so clear and so bright that it will see everything everywhere at once. When God awakens, so will our souls. We will be quickened, awakened, enlightened, enraptured, and transported to heaven. Our true heaven. We will form the mind of God, and our thoughts will be our nectar and ambrosia, forever and ever, world without end. But it's a long time from now. I don't know how long. I won't live to see it. But if my kids have kids who have kids who have kids. . .it's out there. God is out there. Waiting for us. Waiting for the unborn to awaken his true potential. I would lay myself at the feet of that God. I would serve Him and cherish Him and worship Him however he asked. Maybe someday he'll write a book, the real holy book, for us to read. I would read it cover to cover, and then just turn it over to the beginning, and read it cover to cover again. I pray to that God, sometimes. Whenever I want something truly important. I prayed to him at the principal's office. Before you arrived." Autumn gave him a troubled look, and then stood up.

"In any event, this doesn't count as superstition, because it's still within the framework of natural, observable reality. Don't think we're in the same boat." Autumn coughed self consciously. "I have to use the facilities. When I get back, I want to know whether you confess Christ or not. I can't train a monkey who won't learn."

When Autumn left, Kip Miles asked Christ to give a sign, any sign, that would be worth dying over to believe in. He pledged eternal loyalty to God if he would just prove himself, all the way into the flames and the lions. God was silent. God had no interest in Kip. So Kip threw him away.


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.


Chapter 6

Katja Kiel teleported her brigade into the center of the World Parliament. The entire area exploded. Everyone, allies and enemies, died instantaneously.

"You've got to be kidding me." Katja took off her virtual reality helmet angrily, shaking her head to send her bunned up hair cascading back down her back. "Why would they rig their own parliament?"

"If they knew you could teleport, why wouldn't they?" The scenario designer asked back challengingly. "Now do it again, this time without dying."

"Autumn?" Katja grudgingly spoke into her headset.

"Yes?" Autumn replied through the intercom, hooked into her own computer in her own room.

"We're trying again. This time have a TK barrier around the entire team before I even make the leap and keep it up throughout." Katja ordered.

"Roger. Sorry about that, it never occurred to me they'd blow themselves up." Autumn apologized.

"It never occurred to me either. But I guess our game designers have some creative thinkers. Don't worry about it. We're doing this to learn after all." Katja reassured Autumn. She put her headset back on and told her team to form up into as small an area as possible and not to leave Autumn's zone of control. No casualties ever is hard. How would MDT handle this situation? They wouldn't have Autumn's defensive abilities. I can worry about that later. For now I have to lead AT to victory over a bunch of septuagenarian bureaucrats. You'd think this wouldn't be so hard.

Katja Kiel teleported her brigade into the center of the World Parliament. The entire area exploded. The flames licked at the borders of an invisible bubble surrounding her team, but completely devoured everyone else in the building. Katja looked around for someone who survived the explosion, but there was nothing. The walls of the building had blown apart, and she was now looking into the outside lawn. The roof fell in on them, and it too bounced off and settled over Autumn's protective sphere.

"Congratulations. You win!" The game's mascot did a little dance for them. Katja sighed. "Okay, team. I know it took a lot of skill and effort, but I guess we should teleport home and break out the champagne."

Ardut Singh laughed appreciatively. Everyone held hands again and they teleported back to base. Katja removed her helmet to glare at her manager again. "What was the point of that? We already knew the answer."

"You didn't know if Autumn's TK barrier would hold." The game designer pointed out.

"Isn't it invincible?" Katja asked, surprised.

"Negative, Katja. Enough force can break my barrier. I think it's something like three megatons maximum." Autumn informed Katja through her headset.

"What has more force than three megatons?" Katja asked.

"A nuclear weapon. Or a natural disaster." Toland replied.

"Christ. So if they'd just rigged the parliament with a nuke we'd have lost again?" Katja realized.

"They weren't ready to lose an entire city to kill us." Hitomi commented blankly.

"But next time they could be, when they realize conventional explosives didn't work. Christ. We can't teleport into any obvious location, can we?" Katja looked at her manager, who returned an enigmatic smile.

Azusa can tell me where my targets are, but she can't tell me what inanimate objects they've decided to gather around them. I have to do this better. Could we teleport to a nearby location, destroy the world parliament, and then teleport away again before they can react? But was this even a job for AT anymore? If she was going to fight like that, she should have brought Aisia.

"I'm so confused." Katja moaned. "What are you trying to tell me, that all of our abilities are worthless?"

"I just work here." Her manager shrugged. "I'm giving you questions, you have to find the answers. I can't be there when the fighting breaks out, giving you tips. It's up to the force commander to be able to recognize problems and find solutions in real time when the real war begins."

"I know." Katja sighed. Her role had sounded so glamorous when she'd been awarded with it. But now she had no idea how to preserve her team or use their abilities effectively. "Okay everyone. Let's try our next target. We'll presume they've rigged the president's house with a nuclear weapon. So Toland, I want you to accelerate as big a chunk of metal as you can carry with you into the west wing. Let's see if we can take the bastards out from three miles."

"Roger that." Toland agreed, fetching a hunk of slag with his game avatar from their warehouse of infinite conjured goods.

* * *

Autumn yawned and rubbed her eyes, slumping her head down onto her arms, her hair spilling out over her forearms and onto the desk as well as down her back.

"Are you okay?" Kip asked, though all he really wanted to do was reach out and stroke that hair so tantalizingly close while she was off guard.

"I'm not okay. Because Mother says I have to tutor you from breakfast to dinner, we have to do all our training at night. When am I supposed to sleep, hmm?" Autumn complained, her eyes closed in a comfortable, 'I'm not sleeping, I'm resting,' format.

"I guess if I told you I know everything now you wouldn't believe me, huh." Kip suggested halfheartedly.

"Of course not. What did we even talk about yesterday? I don't remember teaching you anything." Autumn mumbled into her arms.

"I gave up being a Christian." Kip reminded her helpfully.

"Oh. That." Autumn didn't sound impressed at all. "So?" Autumn lifted her head and opened her electric blue eyes to look into Kip's brown eyes challengingly. "Don't you have any questions for me?"

"Let's see then. You say you're collectivists, but you're also. . ." Kip couldn't force himself to say the forbidden word. He stumbled to a halt.

"Say it." Autumn's eyes narrowed, gripping his like a hypnotic snake.

"Meritocratic." Kip felt a surge of panic run all the way up his spine, like God would strike him down with lightning right there on the spot. But God didn't exist, so nothing happened. Kip swallowed the acid that had painfully filled up his throat all the way from his stomach.

"Say 'merit' three times." Autumn coached.

"I. . .isn't the once enough?" Kip's acid was already creeping back up his esophagus at just the thought.

"Don't be a baby." Autumn replied.

"Merit, merit, merit." Kip forced himself.

"Seriously, did they implant a chip in you or something? It's just a word." Autumn chided him, even though he'd fulfilled her wish. A was A, after all. Kip sighed.

"It's not just a word. It's the forbidden word. It's. . .even thinking the word is so dangerous and so wrong that you're stained with it forever. . . if you say the word once in your life, you can no longer testify in court, you're considered so polluted! You can go to jail for it!" Kip Miles complained in anguish.

"Well here it's a required word. And you live here now, if you haven't noticed. Merit. There. Did I just grow horns or a tail?" Autumn leaned back and posed, one arm on her head and the other on her waist.

"No." Kip admitted.

"So you think the exact same about me as before?" Autumn asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Yes." Kip admitted.

"There you go. Words only have whatever power you give them, Kip. Labels, curse words, insults, 'hate speech,' it's all the same sham. If you refuse to accept any of it, they can't control you anymore. We can make up our own minds if people are good or bad, without relying on buzz words they say, or their opponents say about them. Just look to the heart of what they're saying and ask yourself if it's good. How they said it, why they said it, none of it matters. Nothing they pretend matters, matters, Kip. That's how they manage to win debates. Nothing the outside world has said has been true for centuries, but they've still convinced everyone on Earth to agree with them. They stopped arguing about what long ago, because they realized monkeys don't have to be convinced about 'what.' Monkeys can be controlled solely through arguments about who is saying what, how they are saying it, why they are saying it, and who else said the same things at some other time or place. They also like to point out what other things you've done in your life, or who else you know. The one thing they will never talk about is what you just said, and whether or not it was true. And for monkeys, it's never failed. Not in three hundred years of absolutely ridiculous lies. We haven't been able to pierce their veil of deceit around you zombie parrots even once. Our words are like oil to your water. We tried and tried and tried. But we were always under the impression that at some point, someone would start wondering about what we were saying, and whether it was true. We should never have trusted homo sapiens so far. It turns out caring about the truth is reserved solely for human beings." Autumn Brewnell grew more animated as she spoke, her tiredness sloughing off of her like a snake skin. When did I start thinking of her as a snake? Wasn't she a falcon? Well, I guess any predator is true enough.

"I still think it's impolite to use deliberately inflammatory words. . ." Kip suggested.

"Isn't it impolite to be so offended by every little thing that it's impossible for the other party to even express themselves or say what they're thinking anymore? Who's the actual aggressor here? The person who's saying what he thinks, however bluntly, or the person who's screaming about how injured they are every time anyone else opens their mouth or disagrees with them about anything? Come on, Kip. If I had to avoid insulting people, I'd have to rip off my own face. Just looking at someone is expressive enough to leave no doubt what I think about them." Autumn said.

"There is that." Kip laughed. Even so, the look she was giving him was far from withering. She seemed tired, and amused, but not ready to feed him to wild dogs. The look he remembered so well barely even reached her lips anymore.

"So okay," Kip nerved himself up again. "How can you be a collectivist meritocracy? It's an oxymoron."

"Three reasons off the top of my head." Autumn yawned, her eyelids fluttering until they stopped at 'closed.' "One: People can be mereticious at different things. Some are subtler than others. Some don't show up in an entire lifetime, or have no known practical application. But their merit in that field should still count. Nietzsche and Van Gogh were complete unknowns until after they had already died. Two: The world is chaotic, and our world line is just one of infinite possibilities. Nothing should be judged by its actual results, but only by its probable results. If people are meritorious by acting the exact same way down different world lines, then they're meritorious acting that way down this world line too, even if it leads to complete failure. Three: Merit is meaningless without values. If we judge things solely by merit, we fall into a fallacy where computers are outcompeting human beings. So necessarily, we aren’t concerned with rewarding merit, we’re trying to fulfill a meritorious person’s values. And those values rarely correlate to merit. Does said person have a family? How about a pet? Children? Friends? Does he have some sort of subjective bias for a particular commercial brand or artist’s work? Does he perhaps feel nostalgia for the past, or fellow feeling for people who live nearby? Does he cheer for a sports team regardless of how good they are? Here’s the deal. I’m the only psychic in my family. The other psychics in the world are like a second family to me, because of what we have in common. Does that mean I’d be okay with my original family starving to death, because they aren’t psychics so they just can’t hack it and don’t deserve to eat anymore? No. I love them, whether they can hack it or not. And I love everyone who agrees with me too. So no, I’m not going to let them starve either. In fact, I’m not going to let any harm come to anyone or anything I care about, whether they deserve it or not, and whether they earned my help or not. That’s the privilege of the powerful, of the meritorious. We spend our merit where we please. An individualist is basically saying he cares about himself and nothing but himself. He’s a contemptibly small, pathetic being who no one would ever look at twice. A collective, however, is magnificent. It has the potential for immortality, transcendence, cooperation, competition, edification, creation, diffusion, transformations . . . a whole new library of words become available that no individual can experience.” Autumn paused, working at the problem from another side.

“You could say that merit doesn’t even exist until you’re comparing collectives. What is the merit of an individual? Suppose he’s the greatest artist who ever lived. Every painting he draws, however, is instantly teleported into the heart of the sun and never seen by a single living soul outside of himself. Who has more merit? Him or the artist that actually reaches his public? Other people created the art. They created it by perceiving it. Until it entered the other person’s brain, it didn’t exist. The value of art exists only within a collective. We can’t say anything about an individual’s artistic merit, we can only speak of a culture’s artistic merit. This is because a culture can both make and consume art, and we can chart the collective’s reaction and how beneficial it was to greater power, prosperity, and progress. The same for science. Chinese invented a lot of things over the years, but they did so as individuals. Were these inventors meritorious? It’s a meaningless question. Since their inventions didn’t outlive them, and they never helped any sizable number of people, they may as well have never invented them in the first place. The only time merit can occur in science is at the collective scale. A culture can have scientific merit, by keeping discovered knowledge continuously alive through education, by applying inventions in daily life, and by changing the world with the tools their individuals have made available. The same for your genes. Your genes might be amazing, but if you never pass them on to anyone else, they aren’t fulfilling their purpose as information encoders and transmitters. The entire point of genes is to insert them back into the collective -- your species -- the gene pool -- to be blunt, to insert them into a woman. You don’t accrue any merit, even if you’re a carbon copy of Jesus’ own divine DNA, until you’ve done so, and fashion a new life form, a child, out of your all powerful blueprints. And that requires, guess what, someone else. In short, a collective.”

“It’s myopic to attribute merit to individuals. It’s impossible to know how much they contributed, and how much was contributed by others to them. The scale is so microscopic it’s just brownian motion, quantum mechanics. But zoom out and you can quickly determine the merit of a sports team -- either it wins its games or it doesn’t -- or a movie -- either it sells or it doesn’t -- or a nation -- either it flourishes or decays. So we don’t play these games. We assume that anyone who abides by our standards is a good person, a valuable person, worthy of our respect. And then we reward him as though he did have merit, even if we’ve seen no sign of it -- we reward him with a spouse and kids, because marriages are arranged and mandatory for all -- we reward him with money, because everyone should have enough to live by -- and we reward him with prestige, he can look anyone he wants in the eye and we will listen to what he says just as respectfully as anyone else. If we have our acts together -- ie, if our standards and laws are good in the first place, then the collective’s merit will make up for any deficit in any particular individual. Meanwhile, those individuals with the most merit will have enough people to work alongside that their merit can be fully expressed. Everyone wins. Everyone’s potential is maximized. And all because we zoomed out to look solely at how well our people, our nation is doing on the whole. If our nation becomes sick, if we start to fail and die, then yes, I’ll admit we’re no longer a meritocracy. But so long as eugenics keeps improving our stock, so long as our people are loyal and proud to be dissidents, so long as our families stick together and our population keeps growing, and so long as we can win our wars, we have all the merit we need. The idea of going around with carrots and sticks to encourage everyone to try harder and do more just displays a lack of faith. A cynical despair that admits we’re already so wicked that no individual can be trusted to be worth anything unless they’re properly yoked and driven like plowbeasts from birth to death.” Autumn finished.

“But what if it’s true? Human nature can be sad, but if you work with it, it can still produce great things. Is it too cynical to want to reach those great things by admitting human nature is selfish and lazy, and people need motivation to be anything more?” Kip asked.

“Human nature evolved the way it did for a reason. Who says lazy selfish people aren’t doing something worthwhile?” Autumn challenged. “People don’t need much. Of course we’d be lazy if we’re expected to produce more than we need to consume. People don’t have many needs, but of course they’ll be selfish until those needs are met, so long as they can see how readily available all the answers to their needs are. Are people selfish on a sinking ship? It seems to me there have been plenty of people who calmly accepted death, if it meant a woman or a child could live. Now take another example. You’re starving, and you find yourself in a rich person’s orchard. There’s fruit as far as the eye can see, just hanging on tree limbs, ready for picking. Is it selfish to eat the fruit? Sure. Do we need to stop this man from stealing for the sake of the world? Will the world explode unless we stop him and his lazy selfish ways? No. We can afford to give the man an orange or two until his stomach stops growling. We can afford to give away the whole year’s crop to nothing but hungry stomachs. The world is huge. The sun is continuously shining on it. Rain is constantly falling on it. Plants are constantly growing in it. Animals are constantly grazing those plants. There’s enough for everyone. If there really were a catastrophe, a life or death situation, those same lazy selfish people would be laying their lives on the line for others. Because we’re all a family here, and families come together when times are hard. All we ask is that they help us when we need them, when push comes to shove. Even if it means giving us a hearty cheer when we teleport off to war, it’s worth something to me. I can afford to give a little something back.”

“Which reason is it? Sympathy, possiblity, subtlety. . . you’re switching between mutually exclusive arguments.” Kip complained.

“No, I’m drawing a venn diagram for you. Everyone in our collective should be treated as though they have merit, even if they don’t, because we don’t know whether they do have merit, or might have had merit, or just are nice guys we could get to like. If I draw enough circles and they cover a wide enough surface area, lo and behold, I’ve covered the whole community. All the circles don’t have to cover every single person’s situation. It’s enough if any of them do.” Autumn Brewnell traced some hoops on the desk with her finger to demonstrate.

“What about homo sapiens? Why not apply this universally? Wouldn’t you be right back to equality and non-discrimination?” Kip asked.

“Why not include bacteria while we’re at it?” Autumn rolled her eyes. “I can trust humans because they’re humans. They have good beliefs, good genes, good upbringings, good role models, good educations, good looks, good values, and good behavior. They can’t go that far wrong. Whatever they’re doing, I trust that it’s worthwhile. Homo sapiens are different. Whatever homo sapiens are doing, I can trust that it’s awful. It ranges from worthless to purely negative. When I see a human, I think, ‘He’s just like me. I love myself, so I guess that means I love him too. How do you do, stranger?’ When I see a homo sapien, all I can think is one line, over and over again, continuously: ‘You are filth. We cleanse.’ Collectives are defined precisely by who they exclude. If you don’t exclude anyone, you aren’t a collective anymore. You’re just an aggregate. Collectives design the nature of their constituents. Universals simply are their constituents. It makes all the difference in the world. The choice was never between particular standards or universal standards. There has always been a third way. Set standards. Collective meritocracies are the third way. They also happen to be the most humane and most effective civilizations ever built. Rome, Sparta, Germany, Japan -- name your glorious empire, and it was modeled as a collective meritocracy. America’s national emblem is the fasces, copied from the Roman Empire. What do you think it meant?”

“Universalism?” Kip offered what he had been taught.

“What can break an individual can’t break a collective. That’s the heart of fascism. And that is the core of every strong nation’s strength. Any nation that ever conquered or prospered in history, believed in the fasces, not the individual. They followed the Greco-Roman lead. Just like we are doing today. Plato was right then and he’s still right today. The Greeks got it right on their first try.”

“I suppose you have some history books to prove every Empire was fascist, not individualist or universalist, while it prospered?” Kip asked.

“Sure.” Autumn yawned. “Read Plutarch’s lives. Or Tacitus. Or Thucydides. Or Xenophon’s Anabasis. A few Greeks, by sticking together, marched all the way out of Persia back into Greece, fighting the entire Persian empire the whole way back home, and lived to tell the tale. Because they stuck together. That’s impossible under any other system. Those stories simply don’t happen anywhere else. Not anywhere else in the world, or any other time period in history. Thermopylae, Anabasis, or the conquest of Carthage, read anything you like. It’s all proving the same thing. Nations full of individuals who will sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole are stronger than nations full of individuals trying to get ahead. Nations that look after all of their citizens and ensure they all have a good life produce more individuals willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole. In short, it increases morale and cements loyalty. The Emperors who paid their troops well and used them well in battle were rewarded with men who would obey them in any task, no matter how demanding or dangerous. Emperors who wouldn’t pay their men and threw them around recklessly were assassinated after a few months. A nation is its people. A ruler should serve his people, not ‘deserving individuals.’ If you do, your entire people will serve you, which is a lot better than a handful of sycophants you hand picked as ‘deserving.’ If you won’t trust me, go ahead and read. But I thought you promised Norn you would read Lensman.”

“You talked to her about me?” Kip asked, feeling honored.

“You take up half of my day. Of course I talk about you. It’s not like it’s flattering.” Autumn gave him a glare to put him back in his place.

“You’re right. Norn’s coming over to read with me, so it would be rude if I tried anything but her books. I guess I’ll just give the subject a rest then. At least you did have an answer.” Kip surrendered.

“Good. Tell Mother I taught you something important if she comes by asking what I did today.” Autumn yawned, settling her cheek back and forth against her arms until it was pillowed just right. “I’m taking. . .just a short. . .nap.”


Chapter 7

"You are dead." A black screen came up with dripping blood red letters.

"What, why?" Katja kicked the wall in frustration. The mission had been going perfectly! There wasn't any enemy anywhere in sight!

"An Airborne virus infected your team three days ago. It appears your targets had taken the vaccine for it and just left it hanging in the air for your arrival." Katja's manager smiled smugly.

"Do they even have biological weapons?" Katja complained.

"Who knows? Maybe." Her opponent shrugged.

Katja Kiel shook her head, trying to regain her cool. Everyone was depending on her to see them safely through these missions. She had to be more careful. "Georgia?" Katja spoke into her headset.

"Eh? Ah? Yes?" Georgia sputtered, never having been called before. She was ten years old, but a psychic, and that meant part of the war.

"Can you Heal diseases?" Katja asked, keeping her voice much sweeter than what she had used for her coach.

"Eh? Ah, yes." Georgia replied nervously but confidently.

"Then here's what we're going to do. Georgia, from here on, you wait with Norn for when we return home. At the same time she's giving us a new identity for the outside world, you'll delve us for any biological, radiological, or chemical hazards we may have picked up and detox us." Katja ordered. This ought to mess up the game designer's plans.

"Eh? Ah, yes." Georgia accepted.

"I think 'roger' would do, Georgia." Katja smiled.

"Eh? Ah, yes." Georgia agreed. Phillip, Jurgen and Richard all started laughing.

"Cut it out." Katja ordered. Boys were so insensitive. She's only ten. Military discipline was asking a little much. "Alright, MDT. Let's try teleporting into the middle of this army base attacks blazing. Aisia, can you assure me a repulsive force stronger than a bullet or an explosion?"

"One gravity well coming up." Aisia promised cheerfully. Previous experiments had shown she could make a ring of high G around them such that anything thrown at them was instead sucked into the ground.

"I think I could blow everything away with wind." Ma offered.

"Go for it. Nothing wrong with two layers of defense." Katja agreed. She thought Ma might be volunteering to cover for his fiancee's slip. If so, he was an extremely thoughtful eleven year old. That or he just wanted something to do this time.

Katja had the team hold hands and input her coordinates. She didn't like landing on the ground anymore. The ground could have a land mine ready to explode before they had any defenses up. She teleported everyone to a position in midair.

"Jurgen." Katja called on her fiance.

"Roger." Psychic strings sprouted out of his fingers and into each of their backs, including his own. His puppet master was holding them all up, including itself. It wasn't exactly flight, but it would do.

Aisia set a trio of gravity rings orbiting around them in a dizzying pattern, ready to deflect or absorb anything that was headed their way. As they were at the center of her orbits, they felt no effect at all. They were being pulled equally in all directions with G forces far beyond the Earth's. Perhaps 100 G? 1,000 G? Enough to stop even the thrust of rocket fuel, at least. Katja had seen the missle take a right turn and then crumple into dust before hitting them, and the explosion that tried to escape the confines of the missile get sucked right back into the invisible line as well. At least she could still see the effects of the gravity. It couldn't be a singularity then. Aisia was still being careful.

"Fire at will!" Katja pointed down at the armed ants scurrying around beneath them.

Phillip watched with frustration. His momentum had to be transferred from his fist to whatever he touched. Any attack he made would just be sucked up into Aisia's gravity well. The others had better successes, however. They could act at a distance. Normally anywhere they could see.

Hoh took the west quadrant, willing anyone he saw to fall asleep on the spot. If they were asleep, they were out of the fight, and could always be killed later. Hoh's attack was an instant kill for all intents and purposes. Though back home it might make a good cure for insomnia.

The eastern quadrant was covered by Richard. He could hack into any machine and control it at a distance. So long as it had a computer, it was his. Smart bombs started exploding all on their own inside the base. Tanks turned their turrets, though unoccupied, and started blasting away on soldier barracks. A helicoptor launched itself into the sky and unloaded its payload of around one hundred deadly rockets, then rammed itself into a building.

Mia covered the south. Her job wasn't too difficult. She swept her gaze back and forth like a lawn mower, and everywhere she concentrated a new fire sprouted up and billowed into a deadly inferno. Any ammunition or bombs caught up in her flames exploded, adding to the havoc, and anyone hiding in a vehicle would simply be baked to death or asphyxiated. People's flesh melted off their bones. If they were screaming, no one could hear it, because the gravity wells were sucking any sound from outside away.

Ma took the north. After consulting his compass, he started chanting to himself, and a series of disasters started overtaking the region. Cyclones appeared out of the air, landing all of their tails directly on top of living quarters and warehouses, while the Earth started shaking and cracking underfoot. Everything started whirling about and slamming into and through each other. Flesh and metal alike were too frail for the maelstrom.

Once Mia was satisfied that her region had no survivors, she switched to burning up Hoh's region. Everyone floated in midair, watching the situation silently unfold in awe. They had been this strong all along, if they had only known.

"Did anyone even shoot at us?" Valentine asked, having had nothing to do in the face of such overwhelming superiority.

"I don't think so." Katja replied. "But how could we notice even if they had?"

"Maybe they'll scramble some jet fighters or shoot us with a satellite laser if we stick around." Aisia suggested. "Want to see if my gravity ring holds?"

"How long can you keep it up?" Katja asked, curious.

"I didn't expect to have to make it three dimensional like this. I think we have ten more minutes." Aisia said, sad to admit she had any limits.

"Then no. We can't counterattack objects we can't see anyway. Let's just go home and have Georgia patch us up." Katja decided. The team had no objection. The screen went black as a mascot danced to 'Congratulations, you win!' Mass Destruction Team was living up to its name.

* * *

"How are supplies holding up?" Colette asked Wa Si, her most trusted assistant. Wa visited an internal website where inventory was continuously updated by another government cadre.

"It's a losing battle, though of course the kids are doing their best." Wa closed the window.

"I guess it was impossible two people to make enough to support five million." Colette sighed.

"More stealing than making." Wa corrected. "Felix is conjuring up fuel and spare parts, and Ivy's making copies, but the biggest problem is food. It takes a pound of rice a day to stay alive, which means we have to conjure up three tons of rice a day just to keep up with demand. Even though we have money, we can't buy anything because it would be traceable back to our locations."

"So we can't withstand an indefinite siege." Colette sighed.

"We could at 1/10 of our population, at least so long as Felix and Ivy hold up." Ivy said.

"That would go over well. 'Sorry, everyone, but there are too many useless eaters, so 9/10's of you are going to have to die. But don't worry, it's all for the revolution.'" Colette practiced her speech.

"If people understood the necessity, I think they would accept it." Wa answered neutrally.

"Yes, well, I'd rather not find out." Colette squashed the idea. "We just have to hope Katja knows what she's doing and we can win this war before our stockpiles run dry."

"Something a little less pressing, but I thought you might be interested." Wa brought up, tapping her tablet.

"Hmm?" Colette stopped fretting for a second.

"The DNA test has come back for Kip Miles. It appears he's one of us." Wa said.

"A traitor?" Colette asked confusedly.

"Certainly a possibility, but it doesn't match any witness accounts. He's the son of Mr. and Mrs. Banerjee, the DNA is without question a match, but they have quite a different story. They say their son was a slow, surly, and ugly misfit who got caught stealing and even assaulting another child within the community. He made friends with homo sapiens at school and one day just never came back. They were just as glad, because he never could have made it as a human being as an adult." Wa read off her document.

"Does this runaway represent a security threat?" Colette asked worriedly.

"No. This was years ago, before we retreated to our bunkers. We lived in the open and obeyed the laws while young Banerjee was alive, so there wouldn't be much he could report about us." Wa said.

"Thank God for small favors." Colette breathed.

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Wa joked. "However, young Banerjee and the Kip Miles we know have entirely different life stories. Kip says he's the biological child of two homo sapiens, Mr. and Mrs. Miles, and has been raised by them all his life. He had no clue about our society until arriving here with Ms. Brewnell."

"Could he be lying?" Colette asked.

"Unlikely. Look at a picture of young Banerjee." Wa turned the tablet away from herself to show Colette. The face was totally different from Kip's. It was slanted on one side, with beady, lifeless eyes. She then flipped the picture to Mr. Banerjee for reference, then a picture of Kip's face. Banerjee Jr. looked nothing like his father, but Kip was the spitting image.

"So young Banerjee isn't young Banerjee." Colette surmised.

"Correct. Rather than a traitor come back to spy on us, the simplest explanation for all of Kip's eccentricities was a simple mix-up at the hospital." Wa said.

"Kip's a changeling. The nurses handed the two kids to the wrong mothers. By God." Colette sat back, stunned at the incompetence of the outside world.

"He's a lost sheep who's finally returned to the fold, as it were. But at sixteen, it's a little too late to hand him over to his parents. Even if he's biologically human, it's useless if the brainwashing of his entire life has gotten to him." Wa said.

"So Kip right now is fighting the greatest war of all time, Nature vs. Nurture." Colette said.

"You could say he's been fighting it all his life. But his actions for the sake of your daughter are a healthy indicator of who's winning." Wa pointed out.

"Even so, even for one of our own, we can't lower our standards. Kip still has to accept what we are doing is right and fully sign on to our way of life or the death sentence stands. I feel bad for him, not being raised appropriately until it was too late. No one can change his past. But if he's a real human being, he could change his future. He could throw off the chains of his upbringing and start all over. He has an excellent tutor, after all." Colette smiled to think of her proudest accomplishment, her psychic daughter, one of just nineteen on Earth.

"May I ask why you're continuing their lessons?" Wa asked.

"When you teach someone else, often, you teach yourself. The more they challenge your arguments, the better your arguments must become. This was a chance for Autumn to truly learn to love her country and her people. To justify to herself why we're worth fighting for. If she's going to lead Atlantis, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to gain the necessary perspective. She needed to believe in it and love it more than anyone else." Colette explained.

Wa shook her head, amazed at the deviousness this politician used even for her own parenting. "Be that as it may, now that we know Kip is genetically human, should we test to see if he is a psychic as well?" After the first psychic power was demonstrated thirteen years ago, Ardut Singh's telepathy, all humans were tested for latent psychic powers . Thousands of people showed some signs, generally the siblings or relatives of true psychics, but often just random people in the community. All of them were being arranged to marry each other in the hopes of further improving the species' chances of reaching a new stage.

"We may as well. But don't tell him what we're doing or why. It's better that Kip thinks he's a homo sapien, so that his decision isn't tainted by anything but his own unclouded eyes. It will certainly be curious, his next probation hearing." Colette smiled.

"I think so too." Wa concurred.

Which was stronger? Nature? Nurture? Or the power of Love? Because, Autumn, even though you won't admit it, that boy is besotted with you. Rushing to your rescue armed only with a baseball bat, acting against everything he had ever been told in his life, wasn't the act of someone with an 'infatuation'. It wouldn't have been out of place in a storybook.

* * *

"You must really like oranges." Kip noted, as Autumn sat down at their table, sipping a glass of orange juice through a twisty straw.

"Of course. Doesn't everyone?" Autumn asked, setting her drink down self-consciously.

"If you aren't drinking orange juice, you're talking about orange orchards." Kip pointed out.

"If I don't drink orange juice, my throat will dry out, because it takes ten thousand words to explain the simplest concepts to you in a way you're willing to understand." Autumn shot back.

"I was thinking about my probation hearing last night, and I came up with a great speech for your leader. I want to run it by you, to get the 'human' pulse, as it were." Kip said.

"You realize if you talk to my mother again without converting you're dead? Why on Earth would you want to make a speech? Just say 'I hear and obey, my lady,' and give a courtly bow. Then you could keep your head." Autumn said.

"Just hear me out. It's a great speech." Kip swore.

"Fine, go ahead." Autumn waved her hand at him and sipped some more orange juice through the twisted tunnels of her straw and into her slightly open lips. Everything she did made Kip want to tackle her. The worst part was she wasn't even trying to attract his attention. In fact, she'd be revolted at the idea if it ever occurred to her.

"Okay. Well, I think you should change your war aim, just a little. I don't like the idea of homo sapiens being made to serve human interests, or being killed, just because they lost a war. Lots of wars have been fought across history, but completely eradicating or enslaving the other side is practically unknown. It's just too brutal. So I came up with a counterproposal. Suppose after you win this war, you divide the world in two. Humans can have the northern hemisphere, and homo sapiens can have the southern hemisphere. Anyone would agree that this gives humans the most and best land. If you can win a war outnumbered 1,000 to 1, homo sapiens will never be a threat to you in the future, once humans outnumber homo sapiens, because they have the best land. You'll have to work for your own food and lodging, but that shouldn't be a problem when you're all so smart, right? And you'll have to raise your own families, but it's better for kids to live with their biological parents anyway, right? Eventually you plan to go it alone, without homo sapiens, so why not just start at the beginning? The most important thing is liberation. If your war can win you that, as well as land to expand into and the power those resources would give you in the future, then all essential war aims have been granted." Kip said.

"This plan benefits humans, too. If you lived alongside homo sapiens, they could potentially rebel against you, and massacre your people unprepared and spread out, before any psychic forces could be gathered to enact reprisals. They pose a much greater threat to you as your slaves than as people on the other side of the world. Though if you violently kill them all, this problem wouldn't happen either, it's still less effective than fighting for just the Northern Hemisphere. You said you weren't sure you could win this war, right? Well, if your war aim is the eradication or enslavement of homo sapiens, homo sapiens have to fight with all they've got to stop you. But if it leaves them the chance to go on living their normal lives, they'll surrender more readily. So it increases your chances of winning the war in the first place. What's not to like about this plan? You have a higher chance of victory, which will secure everything you want, you have a more secure peace after the war, and homo sapiens don't suffer overly much. Surely losing half the world is punishment enough for one bad law?" Kip asked hopefully.

Autumn shook her head. "You're missing the point. We can't stand homo sapiens. Their very existence is a stain on this world, like cockroaches. One of our war aims is to eliminate the cockroaches, simply so we don't have to see them anymore."

"I thought about that." Kip quickly replied. "And I think you're missing something really important. Human beings need to see homo sapiens. Actually, you need living homo sapiens somewhere nearby. Because so much of being human is precisely not being a homo sapien. You define yourselves as 'not like those monkeys,' but without their example, how could you educate your kids? How could you show them how bad wrong choices were? If they just read about it in a textbook, they'll eventually think it's all nonsense and it wouldn't be the same if they did it. They'd stop heeding all of your warnings, because they'd all be theoretical, and none of them would have any empirical evidence anymore. But if you tell your kids, "If you aren't like us, you'll end up like them," and then just point over the fence to the southern hemisphere, wouldn't that be so much more instructive? Hating, despising, homo sapiens is what has held your people together for three hundred years. Don't you think that's amazing? Has any group stuck to the same laws and the same system for so long, so committedly? You’re united by your common foe, and by the lessons you’ve drawn from them. You’re united by watching every generation the distance growing between your people and theirs, and knowing your plan is working. In the absence of a common enemy, your own group will splinter apart. You’ll start creating new factions, new disputes, internal quarrels about one policy or another. But so long as there are homo sapiens, there’s a solution. People who can’t fit into your culture could all share the same penalty, exile to the Southern Hemisphere. But just imagine if you owned the whole world? Then if your group broke up, the splinter rebels wouldn’t just be absorbed into a sea of mediocrity and disappear. They’d be able to set up an effective resistance, and perhaps defeat you. Allow an outlet for your outcasts. Let them go live ordinary lives with ordinary people, and you’re defusing a time bomb. But back them into a corner, say this is the entire world’s law and there’s no changing it, and I guarantee you’ll be fighting a civil war fifty years from now, this time psychics against psychics.”

“If what you say is true, the people we ‘exile’ could eventually become the leaders of the Southern Hemisphere and be an even greater threat, combining their strength with the masses of homo sapiens.” Autumn said.

“They could, but homo sapiens are trained to hate and despise arrogant eggheads, people with light skin, and all the rest. Is it really likely they’d accept a leader from mankind? Isn’t it more likely they’d put their skulls up on racks?” Kip asked.

“What if we spare homo sapiens, and they realize their mistake, and immediately start breeding for intelligence and weaponized psychic powers of their own/” Autumn asked. “In a few centuries we could be fighting them again, this time with no advantages.”

“To do that, they’d have to essentially become you, in which case you will have genocided homo sapiens, no matter who wins.” Kip said

“Huh.” Autumn sipped orange juice through her straw, her brows furrowed. She couldn’t find any more flaws, even though she was sure they were there. It was impertinent to assume he could give advice to real human beings, much less Mother, who had run their community ably for over a decade. But she found herself agreeing with his reasoning. What if we were united solely because of the ‘other?’ What if there couldn’t be an ‘us’ without a ‘them?’ What if homo sapiens were like a vaccine, a vaccine against our own tendency towards degradation and dissolution? They looked like an invading infection, an evil dangerous force, but they were too weak to actually harm mankind, while being just strong enough to encourage maximum healthy output from humanity. Vaccines were composed of evil things, diseases that had killed millions of people in the past. But their effects were far from evil. Their effect was one of the greatest goods ever invented -- a cure to said disease.

Were homo sapiens the cure to every human disease? Homo Sapiens drink, but we don’t. Homo Sapiens fornicate, but we don’t. Homo Sapiens slander, but we don’t. Homo Sapiens dress shabbily, but we don't. Homo Sapiens overeat, but we don't. Homo Sapiens are stupid, but we aren’t. Homo Sapiens are atomized individuals, but we aren't. Homo Sapiens are superstitious, but we aren't. Homo Sapiens are materialistic, but we aren't.

Homo Sapiens are beasts, but we’re angels.

Didn’t eyes perceive light better the darker the cave?

Where would we be without them pushing us together?

Where would we be without their giving us the determination to not be them?

Were humans ready to go it alone?

Weren't the last three hundred years a legacy of heroic proportions?

Why fix what wasn’t broken?

“You’ve convinced me, Kip.” Autumn said. Kip sounded slightly higher than a snail in her opinion. “But are you willing to bet your life on it? To be a human, you have to obey us, which means obeying my mother. If you insist on your own plan, and we don’t adopt it, then where will you be? On the wrong side of the fence.”

“I like humans. I really do. But I can’t endorse genocide.” Kip said.

“Even if it means dying as the patron saint of monkeys?” Autumn asked.

“I’m just another monkey, after all. I may as well die for them.” Kip answered flippantly. He couldn’t be bullied out of each and every belief he ever had. Otherwise he’d just be a slave. His life had been forfeit a month ago, when he’d pulled that crazy stunt. Autumn was safe now, so what did it matter?

“Oh, one more thing, before I die. I’m sorry, Autumn. You’re not trash, no matter what Ms. Hunter says. I didn’t mean it. I think you’re . . . Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis all put together. That’s what I really believed. Then and now. I haven’t had the chance to say that before, and I had to, even if you . . . don’t like hearing me praise you. Which I understand. You have that right. But I had to say it anyway.” Kip took a deep breath. There. Autumn was safe, he’d apologized to her, and now he could die, just like before. Only this time done in by her side. Because in the end he just didn’t fit in anywhere.

“Are you sure you don’t want lessons on anything else? The environment? Patent laws? Health care?” Autumn asked, a touch of concern creeping into her voice.

“It doesn’t matter. I accept humanity will create a good nation, somehow or other, if you win. You’re too virtuous to do otherwise. Even if everything you believe is wrong, you’ll just bull your way through it with strength of character. When Norn said sleeping six to a bed wasn’t a problem, and really quite comforting, I realized you people could do anything. Any society you make will work out. Maybe not for the best. But it will work. Between five million good people, nothing bad can happen, right?” Kip smiled up at Autumn.

“Right.” Autumn smiled, nodding. “Between five million good people, nothing bad can happen, no matter what we believe. That’s why Atlantis will be wonderful. I’ll make it wonderful, Kip, even if you aren’t there to see it. I promise.” Autumn Brewnell squeezed his arm sympathetically, and then she looked around the library embarrassedly, wondering if anyone had seen her pet a monkey.

“I’ll tell mother you’re ready for your hearing. I should go. . .talk to Katja about the war.” Autumn stood up.

“It was nice knowing you.” Kip Miles stood up too, the feel of her hand on his arm engraved into his memory.

“You too, Kip. Goodbye.” Autumn gave a little curtsy, and then walked away. Yet again, he knew he would never see Autumn Brewnell again.


Chapter 8

Hitomi Machida carefully held out her skirt as she knelt down to tend her tomato patch. Gardening was strange. Supposedly it was this life-fulfilling happiness and rainbows act where small things grew large and tasty through loving care. Her watering can was the symbolic tool of gardeners everywhere. But the real tool of gardeners was the spade. And 90% of a gardener's work was killing plants, not caring for them. Weeds threatened her precious tomatoes if she left them alone for a single day, and so she would wander upside into the sun, beneath Norn's protective veil, and stab and slice and chop and kill the undesirables that competed with her chosen few tomato stalks, leaving nothing but a sap-stained wasteland of cratered earth and shattered corpses in her wake. It was a lot like her drills during the night. If anything precious was to live, everything else had to die. The bugs, the weeds, the fungus, the bacteria, and the monkeys. It was kill or be killed. All day long. It was rather sad.

Hitomi stabbed at the dirt listlessly in front of her, watching the weeds slowly shred apart and wondering just how many homo sapiens she'd ripped apart in the same way. Her skill was extra, unearthly hands she could extend from her body, a total of thirty meters. They were strong, too. It was easy to carry a gun in each of those hands, or a sword. The choice of weapon really depended on her mood. Sometimes she just ripped people's heads off and entrail's out with her bare hands. When she was in a dark mood. If you knew where an attack was coming from, they were good shields, too. But Autumn was also on the AT, so Hitomi just left the defense to her.

Oh, that's right. I haven't killed anyone yet. Those were drills. Oh well. Hitomi stabbed her spade into the dirt and didn't lift it again. The real killing would begin soon enough. Like I'd marry anyone but my Hoh. It would be nice to wring a newspaper editorialist's neck too. Maybe she could squeeze the blood out of his eyes, nose, and ears, and then write her own article on his corpse with his own blood for the monkeys to read. Something educational. Like, IQ is a valid test of intelligence and correlated to more successful marriages, longer lifespan and higher income levels, with a few footnotes for doubters. That would be hilarious.

"You're brooding again." Hoh Er stepped in the way of the sunlight, casting a shadow over her head.

"Hoh." Hitomi Machida said. She didn't continue. It could have meant anything. Why are you here? I'm glad to see you. I recognize your existence. Hitomi felt it was too much effort to decide which.

"The tomatoes are coming along well, aren't they?" Hoh knelt down beside her. Even though she had taken so much care not to touch the ground with anything but her feet, he just sat with a fwump, dirt covering his legs and butt.

"They're okay." Hitomi said, staring as an ant crawled towards one of her stalks. She stabbed it with a psionic finger.

"You'll get a sunburn if you stay out here too long." Hoh warned.

"I'm tan." Hitomi countered. She still hadn't turned to look at his face.

"Then, I'll get a sunburn if I stay out here too long." Hoh smiled.

"Did you win?" Hitomi asked, staring at her tomatoes.

"The second time." Hoh reported.

"Then, I'll have to win too." Hitomi said. She stood up, smoothing her white skirt to fall to a modest height down to her knees. She held out her hand to her fiance, and gave him the barest of smiles. It was more than she gave anyone else.

Hoh grabbed it cheerfully, and she pulled him back to his feet. After a few hundred years, even girls were a lot stronger than the past. Hitomi could have lifted Hoh into the air if she had wanted.

She had met Hoh at a summer solstice party. She had been sitting by a river in the evening listening to its murmurs and watching fireflies. She didn't like parties, because she didn't like people. She didn't like much of anything except nature. Nature was clean. He had stood over her shoulder then, too.

"Did you know? I'm your fiance." Hoh had told her. She had been ten years old and displayed psychic powers for the first time. He had been twelve, waiting for a suitable female psychic to emerge. Now they were eighteen and sixteen. It wouldn't be long before she gave herself to him, and started on the long, long journey of childbirth year after year. The first children were the worst, because there weren't any older siblings to help. At least Hoh would be there. But men couldn't nurse crying babes. She would be nursing crying children for decades to come. So it goes. It was her duty. She was going to kill an entire species, so she had to give birth to an entire species too. It was only fair.

"It's like then." Hitomi said, the two strolling hand in hand. Hitomi didn't want to go back underground yet. Nature was up here. Only people were downstairs.

"Do you remember what you told me, when we first met?" Hoh had become adept at following her train of thought.

"'Okay'." Hitomi said.

"You just turned your face up from the river to look at mine, a boy you'd never seen in your life, and said 'okay.' I was so confused." Hoh remembered.

"It's our duty." Hitomi said, guiding Hoh towards the river that supplied all of their drinking and cleaning water.

"I wonder how we'd end up, without any duties." Hoh Er said.

"Alone." Hitomi said, absolutely sure of that.

"But freer. Would you be happier without any duties?" Hoh asked.

"No." Hitomi said.

"Why not? You could do anything you wanted." Hoh gestured to the sky.

"I want you." Hitomi said, still not raising or lowering her voice.

"But if we'd never met, you wouldn't have. You could have met anyone. No fighting, no litters of kids. You could have gotten a job. How about a park ranger? That's a pretty wonderful job, don't you think? Always hiking around the most secluded, beautiful places on Earth." Hoh painted.

"If not us, whom?" Hitomi asked, pulling him through the woods, her psychic hands pushing the needles and branches aside for both of them before each step.

"So the world just absolutely has to change?" Hoh asked.

"Yes." Hitomi said.

"Why?" Hoh asked, the two of them breaking out of the trees and standing in front of a wild, white, rushing river that formed a roar in their ears and a mist in their faces.

"Because like this, it's still too sad." Hitomi said. The two sat down on a rock, Hitomi's shirt and skirt slowly growing wet, exposing her figure beneath. Hoh couldn't help himself. He leaned into her and kissed her on the lips. He wanted to make love to her. The thought was crystal clear in his head. But he controlled it, fought it, and finally crushed it into a dull ache and a soft cry of despair at the bottom of his soul. Sex was for marriage. If the two concepts ever separated, sex became nothing at all. It suddenly became appropriate for every occasion with every person you ever met, male or female, sequentially or simultaneously, sadistically or masochistically, anything to produce a novel thrill. The love he wanted to make wasn't that type. Even though Hitomi wouldn't stop him if he started. Hitomi would never say no to him. Which is why he could never, ever try. He honored her too much to do such a thing.

He'd die before bringing any dishonor to this girl, the most brilliant, beautiful girl in the world. So he simply leaned back away from her lips and stared at the sky. Would he be alive two years from now? Would she die in battle? Never mind. Even if I never taste her body even once in my life, she's already given me her heart. When did she give it? Hoh suspected he knew the answer. When she was ten years old, the night they met. Unreservedly, wholly, and completely. Hitomi didn't know how to do something halfway. 'Okay' had meant yes to everything. All of it. The entire rest of their lives together. When Hitomi spoke, her words had meaning. He could have made love to her when she was ten too, and she wouldn't have said no. Or when she was twelve and he was fourteen, or when she was fourteen and he was sixteen. And every time he had looked at those trusting eyes, those clear silver eyes that she alone had and she was named after, and realized he couldn't do it. He couldn't betray that trust. It was too beautiful to use against her.

"Let's go back." Hoh whispered.

"A little longer." Hitomi suggested, resting her head on his shoulder.

"You'll be late for drills." Hoh reminded her.

"A little longer." Hitomi repeated. So they watched the river a little longer.

* * *

"Take this!" Mia Takashi shouted, doing a dragon whirl into a super fireball crusher, landing, jump-canceling, and sliding in one extra air slam to the juggle.

"K! O!" The game shouted.

"'You weren't what I expected,'" The pretty boy in black leather turned his back on his opponent in disappointment. Richard's sporty red haired swordsman cried in frustration.

"Aghhh. I had you." Richard complained.

"That's what happens when you overextend." Mia lectured. "You reap what you sow."

"One more time." Richard demanded.

"Sure. I'll take you on any time." Mia opened her mouth and bared her fangs, hitting the start button for a rematch.

"This time for sure." Richard said, leaning towards the TV.

"Not in a million years." Mia replied, leaning forward too. Their thumbs and fingers started whirling across their joystick pads in ever-more complicated feints and counters. Richard's swordsmen dashed across half the screen in a three part slicing charge, which made Mia jump off the wall to escape, hurling dragon flame to cover her escape. She liked Tetsuro as a character, because he fought with flame too. Sometimes Mia caught herself shooting dragon-headed fireballs at her enemies during drill, and had to quickly flatten it out into more basic flaming death.

Tetsuro's flame whip was countered by Johnny's sliding dash, and she found herself at close range again. Tetsuro always wanted to be further away, and Johnny always wanted to get closer. Their move sets made this both possible and necessary. It was like a game of tag across the screen.

Tetsuro woke up with a dragon whirl and set a flame net in case Johnny chased after him into the air. Then he started firing off phoenix wings, pinning Johnny who could no longer jump or charge forward.

Richard used half his energy to turn Johnny a flashing white, and autoguarded her phoenix wings in a high speed charge. She tried to block but Richard's mixup was too fast. Before she knew it he was behind her and she was blocking the wrong way as he started up his thousand swords loop. Mia looked at her life bar and groaned, letting go of her joystick and just waiting for Richard to execute to the end.

"K! O!" The game announced.

"That was a good warmup!" Johnny smiled cheerfully. Tetsuro bit his thumb in anguish.

"Thousand swords takes way too long." Mia Takashi complained.

"Not just anyone can connect three one frame links. Johnny isn't expected to combo that long." Richard defended himself. "Shouldn't you be marveling at the beauty of thousand swords? That was hard."

"Hard? You get it every time." Mia complained.

"What do you expect?" Richard grinned. Well, he had a point. They were at the beyond ridiculous edge of the bell curve, psychics whose minds had surpassed human limits. Game developers hadn't exactly designed their games around Richard's skill level.

"You were pretty cool today." Mia smiled at her fiance, forgetting about the game. She was the only girl affianced to a boy younger than herself, seventeen to his fifteen. She was East Asian, while he was Hispanic. She had one of the rarest eye colors in the world, a black iris surrounding her black pupil, which made her face look like the mask of death itself, while he had completely bland brown skin, brown eyes and black hair. When they were engaged, they hadn't liked each other at all. She'd complained about what a brat he was, and how dull he looked, and asked for a cool Asian boy like herself. He'd called her a boring girl who wasn't good at anything. But after their parents explained to them that engagements weren't called off, and marriages didn't end, and therefore the two had better learn to get along, or their lives would be eternal hells, they had started trying things together.

If you didn't have anything in common with a boy who was two years younger than you, you didn't like him, and you were betrothed to him, what did you do? Cry? Scream? They had decided on something simpler. Do things together until they were both having fun. There had to be something in this world they could see eye to eye on.

They had tried cooking, dancing, camping, ping-pong, go, and ice skating. Nothing worked. They never had any fun together. Which meant they never had anything fun to talk about either. The worst part of it was there was nothing wrong with Richard. He was smart, extroverted, and energetic. He was totally committed to the cause, even though he could have fit in with the outside world if he had wanted. She didn't hate a single thing about him. They just hated being together.

And so they had tried a fighting game. And they fell in love. Not with each other. With the sport. It was all about victory. In fighters, there wasn't any crap about equality and fairness. There was 'You Win!' and 'You Lose!' Superior and inferior. They had quickly climbed the online ladder rankings together. So long as everyone pretended it was just a fantasy world with no moral relevance, it escaped the notice of the thought police. Soon the two were fighting together in tag tournaments against the rest of the world. Their combo had become the terror of the internet. They realized they had as much fun fighting together as they had fighting against each other. And so they had named their tag-tournament-team Lover's Leap. They were suddenly proud of their betrothal, of their eternal bond in the real world as well as their bond in the virtual world. They were proud to be the strongest players in the world, feared and revered by all. It had taken years of effort, but they were a couple now. A couple, and still years to go before they married. Because they had to stick together, they had kept trying, and because they had kept trying, they had found a way to stick together. If they ever did get tired of fighters, there was always something else. If they could find one common interest, they could find another. Fighting games were just a proof of principle. So long as they were ready to search for it together, they would never grow apart.

Mia and Richard loved each other, just like every other couple among the psychics, but they had fought for their love the hardest, and so their love was the best. Mia wouldn't trade places with anyone. She didn't want anyone but Richard anymore. Even if she would have to wait two years longer than everyone else to start her romantic life. Except poor Autumn. She didn't have any boy at all. Mia reminded herself sympathetically. I complain about waiting two years, but Autumn will have to wait at least five, and that's if there's some sort of late bloomer eleven year old only now displaying his power. For all Mia knew, Autumn might have to wait 10 years, or 20, for another male psychic to appear. Mia's duty wasn't the hardest at all. How decent of Colette to sacrifice her own daughter to the game of musical chairs, just to prove she wasn't abusing her power. Rather than nepotism, or even random chance, Colette had simply withdrawn Autumn from the contest and let everyone else be happy. As a mother, that must have hurt terribly. But as a ruler, it had won the entire dissident community's trust. Now everyone liked Colette and Autumn. They had taken one for the team.

"It was nothing. Thousand blades is way harder." Richard put his arms behind his head smugly.

"Oh? If it was so easy, how come I was able to kill Hoh's district before you?" Mia arched an eyebrow.

"I just let you kill that district. You looked like you were having fun." Richard said.

"Cheeky brat." Mia said. "I praise you, but you undercut me."

"Aisia scares me." Richard said.

"Where did that come from?" Mia asked, surprised.

"I was wondering how to praise you, like, 'you're the star of MDT', but then I realized you were nothing compared to Aisia, and then I realized none of us were anything compared to Aisia, and then I realized that all of us together were nothing compared to Aisia." Richard said.

"That's how the latka curve works." Mia said. "The #1 psychic isn't going to be slightly better than the #2. She's going to be out of this world stronger. At least twice as good as anyone else. Likewise, #2 won't just be slightly better than #3. They'll be twice as good again. Likewise, the 6-10 group won't even be in the ballpark of the 1-5 group. It is frightening, but it's the same phenomena that shows up in every high-skilled competition. Golf, tennis, physics or painting, the latka curve is always with us. It makes sense it would apply to psychics too."

"I'd rather have been #1." Richard complained.

"Not me." Mia said, knitting her fingers together and holding her sock-covered knee to stay upright. "Can you imagine the amount of pressure being the best puts on you? Everyone else can fail, but you can't. You have to pull off a miracle every time. If you want something done, you have to do it, because no one else can. You're responsible for everything and wherever you aren't, catastrophes gather like a storm. Aisia Verininkov can be #1. I just want a normal life."

"Normal?" Richard laughed.

"In a year, the only time I'll use pyrokinesis is to light the stove." Mia smiled. "It will be an extremely normal life."

"I think MDT is ready." Richard said. "Though Phillip might have to be assigned another duty. That base attack is flawless. Homo sapiens simply don't have a counter to what we did to them."

"I think so too. The only question is whether Colette thinks so." Mia said.

"Is it normal for girls to want to kill?" Richard thought aloud.

"No. I hear we were bred to be more aggressive. Our ancestors were sick of mealy-mouthed cowards preaching non-violence, as though giving in had succeeded wonderfully so far, instead of practically dooming the world. The biggest love and peace preachers were women. No matter how obvious it was that only force could ever win us our freedom or our survival, women kept talking about bunnies and kittens and the poor poor children. So our ancestors just hit a reset switch. They found the women who would fight and only their kids became the next generation. After all the filters we put people through, the willingness to fight was just one more. Did you know? All whites and Asians are descended from a single tribe, probably less than 1,000 strong, that came out of Africa 40,000 years ago. That wasn't the tightest bottleneck though. Once humanity was reduced to just a couple hundred people in the whole world. This was in Africa, before anyone had left the motherland. It shouldn't have been possible for us to recover from that blow. But we did anyway, and peopled the whole world from just those two hundred. It doesn't matter how low the initial population goes. It just matters if that group will stay the course. Generation after generation, if you keep having kids, and you keep believing in yourselves, and you keep fighting, you can accomplish anything. So three hundred years ago, we decided to breed a warrior race, with both the capability and the will to throw off the yoke of nondiscrimination. In the end we had to filter down to 5,000 people. Everyone is descended from those 5,000, except a few groups who joined later in, seeing what we were doing and agreeing with it as they saw the world grind to a muddy halt. It's been twelve generations. And those 5,000 have become 5,000,000, and all 5,000,000 with genes far superior to anything the 5,000 ever had. Our quality and our quantity have multiplied 1,000 fold. All because they had a dream, they didn't give up, and they didn't compromise it for something else. Where there's a will, there's a way."

"Duty is the power of miracles, because it doesn't give up until the miracle happens." Richard smiled.

"Like us." Mia smiled, stretching out her hand to squeeze his.

"How many kids do you need to have to increase 1,000 fold in 12 generations?" Richard marveled, squeezing her hand back appreciatively.

"Generation 1: 5,000 has 10 kids per 2 adults, so Generation 2: 25,000 has 10 kids per 2 adults, so Generation 3: 125,000 has 10 kids per 2 adults, so Generation 4: 625,000 has 10 kids per 2 adults, so Generation 5: 3,125,000 has 10 kids per 2 adults, so Generation 6: has 15 million and some kids." Mia did in her head.

"And that's just in six generations." Richard whistled. "It actually sounds pretty easy to make 5,000,000 in twelve."

"That's what people don't get. Geometric equations are powerful. If you decide on something, and stick to it, the results become exponentially more impressive. It took us three hundred years to reach our population. But if you look at it another way, 5,000 people were able, eventually, to conquer the world and remake it in their image." Mia said.

"If we win." Richard pointed out.

"Oh? Who was it that just said MDT couldn't lose? I seem to have forgotten." Mia teased.

"Okay, so when we win." Richard laughed.

"When we win, those 5,000 will be proven right. There's no point gaining broad appeal or caring about the present. A tiny minority determined to win the future through principled determination, a fanatical few, can accomplish infinitely more. So the most important thing on Earth is deciding what principles are worth upholding, joining a group that's willing to uphold them, and then upholding them. You don't instantly need billions of supporters, or your own country, or vast tracts of land, or to win a war, or oodles of money, or some world changing event that flip's everyone's opinions on a dime. You just need will and time. The two together can accomplish anything. The world government cut us off from having any more time. So we did have to win a war. But until the world government did pass that lottery law, we didn't have to fight. We were winning just fine without lifting a finger." Mia bragged.

"I guess this is our triumph of the will." Richard smiled at the thought.

* * *

"Mother, I wanted to talk to you." Autumn Brewnell walked nervously into her mother's bedchamber. Her father was there too, covering his eyes from the hallway light.

"Is it about Kip?" Colette guessed, rubbing her eyes annoyedly. I guess guards didn't consider your own daughter a threat to your life. But they certainly were a threat to your sleep.

"Take it outside." Fried ordered, and both mother and daughter tiptoed out of the room.

"It is about Kip." Autumn turned on her Mother, striving for height.

"Too late. We already came to a decision." Colette said. "Now, can I go back to bed?" Colette yawned.

"Then reconsider!" Autumn demanded. "Think about it, Mother. After the Greeks defeated Persia, what did they do? They split up and started fighting each other, all the way into oblivion! What did the Romans do after defeating Carthage? Nothing but civil wars until the fall of the Republic! If we remove homo sapiens, we'll have nothing keeping us together. Our unity is our strength. A defanged homo sapiens that absorbs our exiles every generation is an eternal counterbalance. It's an eternal Carthage that will keep our Rome together."

"I can't just go back on my judgment because my daughter visits me in the night." Colette said.

"Even if you can't agree, it was a brilliant idea. It was well intentioned. Don't kill him." Autumn ordered.

"You don't sound like you're begging." Colette smiled at her daughter.

Autumn blushed, and then she stiffly lowered herself to her knees. "Please don't kill him, Mother."

Colette clapped Autumn on the shoulder. "Silly girl. He passed his probation. And I thought it was a brilliant idea. The council agreed to it immediately. We'll have some trouble breeding enough children for the foreseeable future, but I guess we're used to large families. It's no more strain than we've been under all along."

"Then. . ." Autumn blushed crimson.

"I was just curious how much you liked the boy." Colette smiled. "Oh, by the way, Kip's a changeling. He's the biological son of Mr. Benarjee, a purebred human. He was only raised by homo sapiens. A case of mistaken baby cradle identity. Oh, and he tested positive for psychic powers, so he's also your fiance. Congratulations!"

Autumn fainted.


Chapter 9

"Attention Homo Sapiens, this is an important announcement. We are the Supreme Council, Speaking for Atlantis:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's Origin entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created superior and inferior, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable genes, that among these are intelligence, personality, and behavior. ・ That to secure these genes, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ・ That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ・ Such has been the patient sufferance of dissidents; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present World Government is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over our people. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

It has refused its Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

It has forbidden any local governments to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till its Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, it has utterly neglected to attend to them.

It has refused to grant the right of secession for the accommodation of large districts of people, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

It has endeavoured to prevent the rise of our population; for that purpose passing fines, employment restrictions, and now even banning us from marrying whom we please.

It has thrown us in jail for pretended offences like hate speech and treason.

It has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of its Protection and waging War against us.

It has plundered our bank accounts, ravaged our children into demonic schools, impounded our homes, and destroyed the lives of our people.

It is at this time searching the world for our secret hideouts to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages that is the marriage lottery law, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

It has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on our peaceful minority the merciless wrath of public demonization, bullying, ostracism, boycotts, employment discrimination and unpunished crimes whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It has banned our peaceful home schooling, such that we could not raise our own children with our own values, but instead forcefully sought to turn our own children against us through slanted, slanderous, horrifically malicious brainwashing they termed 'public schooling'.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Parliament, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our homo sapien brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over reality. We have reminded them of the facts of eugenics and dysgenics, stable homes and broken homes, collectivism and individualism, pride and hedonism, reason and superstition, purpose and nihilism, progress and decadence. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common interest to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our coexistence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of mercy. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Supreme Council of Atlantis, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these hideouts, solemnly publish and declare, That these united secret bases are, and of Right ought to be a Free and Independent State, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the World Government, and that all political connection between them and the World Government, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent State, we have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. ・ And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Darwin's Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

"Since we already have your attention, we would also like to give a follow-up announcement. Now that we are at war, it is only reasonable that we lay out the terms of your surrender. Note that it is impossible for the World Government to win this war. Therefore the length of this war, and its destructiveness, depends entirely upon when you the people are willing to admit this unchangeable reality. You cannot find us, but we can find you wherever you hide. You cannot hurt us, but we can level your cities at will. We can attack you anywhere at any time, but you cannot attack any of us anywhere. To demonstrate our military superiority, we will shortly be dismantling your entire armed forces. Any soldiers who wish to live should desert immediately. All weaponry of war will be destroyed either during this conflict or after your surrender, nor will homo sapiens be allowed to build any new weapons to threaten us with ever again. To demonstrate our anger with your government, we are going to kill every high official in it, no matter how many replacements are appointed to fill new vacancies, unless the government chooses to surrender, after which point their lives will be spared. To demonstrate our resolve to no longer allow liars to control the discourse between our respective communities, we will kill anyone who has slandered us in a public forum in the past, or is doing so in the present, until such a time as your government surrenders. These three targets will be bombarded mercilessly without end until you, the people realize your World Government cannot protect you and cannot stop us from exerting our will. If after your entire military has been defeated and still no surrender is forthcoming, for instance with the hope that you can somehow wait us out, we are prepared to evaporate the entire population of homo sapiens with anti-matter bombs. We will begin with a practical demonstration in an uninhabited desert, and then release a new bomb every day on a major city until homo sapiens surrender or cease to exist."

"Given the actions this World Government has taken against us, an unprovoked attempt at genocide of a peaceful minority that simply wished to be left alone, the terms of our surrender are light. The entire Northern Hemisphere will be ceded to the new nation of Atlantis. All homo sapiens currently living in the Northern Hemisphere must relocate themselves south of the equator. Homo sapiens will no longer be allowed to control a military, or produce weapons of mass destruction. All natural resources in the southern hemisphere must be traded freely with humans in the northern hemisphere, at the same prices as are being offered to homo sapiens in the southern hemisphere. Homo Sapiens will not be allowed to pollute the environment in such a way that would adversely affect humans in the northern hemisphere. Homo Sapiens must accept any and all humans exiled from the Northern Hemisphere into their own borders, though you may deal with them as you see fit. If exiles from the Northern hemisphere appear to be a rising threat to mankind, we reserve the right to preemptively eliminate them wherever they are located in homo sapien territory."

"We will be eagerly anticipating your government's petition to surrender. Until that day, speaking for Atlantis, that is all."

* * *

Colette Brewnell stretched happily and sat up. Richard Mendez had assured her that the public address would reach its intended audience, having hacked all the necessary computers. The only question now was how irrational the public would be. Humans could not last a year in bunkers. They had to be able to go back outside and safely administer to their economic needs, with farms and foundries being put back to work. So before a year could pass, the psychics either had to induce homo sapiens to surrender and enforce the mass relocation of monkeys across the equator and the permanent disarmament of monkeys, especially of WMD, so that human civilians could work in safety and liberty in their own land, or simply kill off all homo sapiens so that humans could safely emerge from the ashes and start farming again. There was always the possibility of failure. Aisia could suddenly die of a heart attack or a trip in the shower. Some bumbling fool could stumble upon their secret location and deliver a barrage of nukes against it. There could be a treacherous uprising from within. But after reviewing the new tactics Katja had developed for her teams alongside her virtual reality instructors, the odds of victory had skyrocketed. At this point Colette felt confident that her speech had been largely accurate. Homo Sapiens could surrender or die in obscurity. They really had no other options.

"You know, when I read Lensmen, I always assumed the Arisians were the heroes. But it was pretty fun playing the Eddorians right there." Hal laughed.

"I almost said Speaking for Boskone the second time." Colette admitted, laughing with him. "I wonder how many of them caught the reference. Culture is totally lost on the animal kingdom." Colette regretted.

"Congratulations on your daughter's betrothal." Hal followed up jovially.

"Thank you. She was very surprised." Colette grinned at the memory.

"What are the odds? The missing psychic was a changeling." Hal mused.

"Benarjee is an esteemed family line, and Kip has shown remarkable aptitude in other fields. Perhaps it shouldn't have come as such a great surprise. In any event, it's a welcome relief. My family line will lose our precious blue eyes, blonde hair and white skin, but my daughter will have a husband at eighteen, and a child by age nineteen, and there's a good chance their children will be psychics too. For her, and for mankind, it's the dawn of a new age." Colette sipped her coffee happily.

"Will Kip Miles be joining the war?" Wa asked more seriously.

"Yes, we added him to the assassination team. His ability should prove quite useful. It's one of the reasons our odds of victory have increased. He can apparently see thirty seconds into the future, and act to change that future before it happens. His ability is Future Sight. Wa, please add him to our list of heroes. Should anything be about to go wrong, Kip can warn Katja, who can gather the team up and teleport them away. He's basically made the AT invincible." Colette explained.

"If Katja consults with Kip before she makes their initial jump, they could always teleport to a safe place during the initiation of the attack." Hal realized.

"Correct. Before they jump, we know for certain everyone will survive for the next thirty seconds. And then after the jump, they have thirty seconds to jump away before whatever death Kip foresees happens. We couldn't have asked for a more useful ability to join our ranks." Colette said.

"Make sure Katja consults with Kip before teleporting the MDT too." Wa warned.

"True, true. Perhaps he should just be put on both teams, like Katja. A defensive ability like his is too precious to go without for even a moment." Colette admitted.

"Can he be trusted?" Wa asked.

"He'd go through hell for my daughter, and my daughter would go through hell for Atlantis, so yes, he can be trusted with the outcome of the entire war. Looking back, my wisdom simply knows no bounds when I assigned Autumn to be his constant companion." Colette praised herself.

"I'm sure she'll thank you for it." Wa said judiciously.

"My daughter?" Colette's eyes widened with surprise. "You must have her mistaken with someone else. She's still shouting that there must be some mistake, and that Kip is just a sea slug. Kip has a long, long road to hear 'I love you' from her lips. Autumn is a proud, stubborn girl. I wonder if she can humble herself enough to love anyone else, much less the selfsame Kip she loves to hate. Well, he has two years. I suspect homo sapiens will surrender themselves to us long before she surrenders herself to him. Kip will find the second surrender far less forthcoming. Of course, for the sake of my grandchildren, I wish him all the luck in the world."


Unknown said...

You are such a great writer! I liked your novel so much that I generated a PDF version of it so that you can redistribute it.

Do you like it? Should I add something or remove something?

Diamed said...

Thank you so much for your praise and most of all your effort in reading the whole thing through! I also think I'm a great (fiction) writer, one of the best around, so it's a shame my fiction works (which are way more than just this novel) don't find a larger audience, even though some of them are published and on sale. You're free to do what you like with a pdf copy, I just want as many people to read it as possible.

Unknown said...

But I mean, I posted the link to the PDF version of your novel:

And I'm asking you how you like it. Should I add or remove something? It's your book, so just tell me what to do! This novel deserves to look good :)

Diamed said...

Okay okay, I looked over your pdf version. I think it's fine. So long as you don't change any of the words. The formatting looks professional so I don't know what else could be of concern.

Anonymous said...

Where are your other fiction works?

Diamed said...

I can't answer that question without blowing my anonymity, now can I?

Anonymous said...