Saturday, July 20, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day – The Titan Drowns by Nhys Glover




Summer 2336 New Atlantis, GAIAN CONFEDERACY

              ‘We are undertaking another major mission,’ Jac Ulster announced to the assembled group of Retrievers from the Child and Adult Programs. ‘Like our 1942 mission, we will require a large, well-orchestrated team working in strategic stages. Our main Target will be the forty-eight children our research has indicated were not seen during the chaos of the early hours of April 15, 1912, and whose bodies were never found.’

‘April 15, 1912. That is when…’ Pia Rogaland interrupted in stunned amazement.

‘The Titanic sank,’ Jac finished for her, nodding at the tall blonde. ‘Yes, you have correctly identified our objective. We are going to redress a little of the loss that occurred that day.’

Karl Ontario felt his heart flutter strangely in his chest. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced this odd sensation since he’d heard the news of the planned Titanic mission, but it still struck him as uncharacteristic. It almost felt like sick excitement; but that was absurd. The only time he’d ever been excited by anything was in his Original body when an experiment had yielded interesting results.

Since then, some 216 years, excitement had never been an emotion he’d experienced. Interest, determination, compassion, contentment and satisfaction were feelings he recognised in varying degrees of mild intensity, but never excitement.

It was commonly believed that the cloned bodies they inhabited were responsible for their race’s lack of passion, but there was no scientific evidence for that. Whatever the cause, it was certainly factual to say that post-apocalyptic man’s emotions were dimmed and marginalized.

Of course for him, even in his Original, the ‘desires of the flesh’ and the concomitant passions it aroused had only ever been mild. One lady-friend had once told him he had ice water in his veins and he’d believed her. He was, after all, the product of his upbringing.

Karl’s father had been an eminent Canadian surgeon in the middle years of the twenty-first century. A fierce and cutting man, he’d ridiculed all emotion out of his son by the time he was ten years old. All that was left in Karl from that time on was the determination to excel. This he’d done spectacularly, out-shining his father in his chosen field by the time he was twenty-five.

Once this goal was achieved, he’d begun looking for new fields to conquer. It was then that he’d encountered the early work on accelerated cellular development the government was funding. Once he saw the potential for their experiments, his course was set.

It gave him satisfaction to know that he was partly responsible for saving what was left of humanity after the Last Great Plague decimated their numbers. Humanity had been whittled down to little more than a few hundred thousand after that last catastrophe, which ended the Second Dark Age.

He firmly believed that he’d been spared by Divine Intervention so that their work, which had previously been directed into military areas, could be utilized to save mankind. Had he or one of his team not been one of the one in a thousand who survived that horrendous pandemic, no one would ever have known about their spectacular research and results. The sterile and sickly survivors of their race would have died out, and humanity would have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Before the Last Great Plague, if anyone had asked him about his beliefs about Divinity he would have called himself an “unconvinced agnostic.” He’d wanted to believe there was a God, but his analytical mind had never found the proof needed to commit to such a belief.

He’d gotten all the proof he needed the day he woke up alone in a town filled with the dead and realised he had the knowledge of cloning that could save the lives of those few who remained.

Man had paid a huge price for his hubris and neglect, but a merciful Creator had given them a way to redeem themselves. The statistical chances of any top scientists surviving that pandemic were infinitesimally small. Yet, among the survivors, there were a surprisingly large number of eminent specialists from a wide cross section of the sciences, including those involved in cellular transpositioning. Their research had eventually led to the time travel they now employed to Retrieve suitable candidates from the past to replenish their depleted numbers.

“Noah’s Ark for humanity” he called the Last Great Plague of 2120; somehow, it had selected survivors who could preserve the best of mankind’s legacy.

His mind returned to the topic at hand. The Retrieval teams were going to Jump to 1912 and pluck children and other suitable adult candidates from the decks of the mortally wounded Titanic. And, for the first time in his life, he was intensely excited by the prospect and wanted to be involved.

Karl wasn’t a Jumper. Such work was left to the more adventurous of his kind. He held a support role – the Head of New Atlantis’ Medical and Research Facility. Not once in the last seventy years of time travel had he felt the urge to involve himself in that other side of life.

Until now. Until the word Titanic reminded him of the undulating rows of grey stone markers, many unnamed, he’d seen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when he was a child.

His mother had taken him to the Fairview Cemetery to visit the grave of her father that long ago day. While she stood quietly grieving, he’d wandered off into another part of the cemetery. There he found the 121 graves, arranged in three neat rows of markers, all bearing the same date of death: April 15, 1912.

Those graves had affected him. Separated by time – nearly 200 years – he’d still felt a strange bond with those unnamed bodies who were robbed of all that made them human: their names, their history and their loved ones. All they had left were their corpses, which had been collected up by unknown hands and buried in graves of earth, instead of the water that had claimed the bulk of their comrades.

His mother told the story for many years after – well out of his father’s hearing, of course – of how she’d found him standing there among those stones. When asked what had possessed him to wander off like that, he’d simply replied, ‘I came to keep them company. It must have been terrible to die cold and friendless that way and then to be left here to lie forever among nameless strangers.’

He didn’t remember saying that, but it was certainly what he felt for a long time afterwards. All he did remember of his interaction with his mother in that spot was her taking his cold hand in her warm one and gently leading him away.

Now, more than 200 years further on again, those nameless dead were calling to him once more. And this time he could do more than provide short-term companionship. This time he could help to save some of those lost souls from their lonely fate.

Jac and Chen, the leaders of the Retrieval programs, would fight him over his decision to join the undertaking. They’d claim he was too valuable to their society to risk on such a dangerous mission. However, he’d be adamant, and he had enough pull in the higher echelons of government to get his way.

The prep for the mission would take many months. During that time, he planned to integrate with a new clone. Currently, he had been housed in his fourth clone for fifty-five years. Not the limit of the lifespan for a clone by any means, but he wanted to be fit and energetic in a twenty-year-old body if he was to take on tasks that might prove physically demanding and dangerous.

That thought roused the sick excitement once again. Could he be changing in the same way some of the Old Timers were beginning to change after they found their significant other? It felt like it might be the case.

After nearly 250 years within a chrysalis of emotionless rationality, he seemed to be feeling the first tremulous moves toward freedom and life. Within the death throes of that metal Titan, he sensed he would be reborn. The how and why of it he didn’t know, but the when and where was certain: April 15, 1912, Mid Atlantic, aboard the doomed Titanic.

He couldn’t wait!

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Genre – Romance

Rating – Between PG13 and R (sensual but not erotic)

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