Leela arrived at the house, much to Miyan's relief, explaining that she had been at the scene of the building fall observing and helping rescue efforts. ***
She gave an account of how the Camelodians had attacked anyone who was in any way being successful in getting people out of the R.I. building, and explained that the reason it was taking so long was that the Camelodians had blocked all the exits out of the area and were only letting people out if they passed interrogation questioning.
Perry was alarmed to learn that his building was not fully evacuated as the news reports had said. He asked if the building was unstable. And Leela reported that the building had taken considerable damage from debris, as well as missiles fired at the lower structure. But the damage was mostly cosmetic in nature. And, as might be expected of such a solidly built structure, it was hardly swaying in the wind any more than it was built to do.
What had Leela especially pissed off was that she had discovered the people who had been rescued were being rounded up by the Camelodians and taken back into the building. Both Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat had given up when they realized this. So the Camelodian soldiers now had uncontested control of the entire area, and even The Fire Chief was nowhere to be found.
Miyan was much more interested in how Leela had managed to survive the fall. Leela explained she had used one of the gadgets Perry had made for The AD to grab the side of the building and tediously lower herself to safety.
Miyan found this hard to believe, but she was too happy to have Leela alive to question it. And though Leela thought Miyan's concern for her somewhat strange, she was by no means flattered by it, and thus did her best to ignore it.
Leela then reported a disturbing account of the questions she had to answer in order to be allowed to leave the area. They particularly wanted to know if anyone had heard any explosions other than the initial one and the crash of the black copter. Leela had said she'd been too busy helping with the rescue to have paid any attention. They seemed pleased with that answer and had passed her through.
Perry wondered if they were sincerely investigating what had happened, or if they were trying to cover their tracks.
Leela thought it odd he would even stop to ponder such a thing. The whole business was so obviously contrived that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Camelodians were running the biggest and least well produced smoke and mirrors show in history.
She suspected it had been planned to look a lot more plausible than it had ended up. It would seem that their coordination had been put off by equipment malfunctions, soldiers balking at their orders, and the shock of finding that The Ruling Family actually had arranged their own resources for dealing with such disasters.
The fact that Suburbia had proven itself to not be completely helpless had unexpectedly damaged their ability to control the narrative. And as things stood now, the only way they could salvage their plans was to get complete control of the media. Thus they would most likely have to kill all witnesses who couldn't be convinced they didn't see what they saw. And Camelot would not be hamstrung by any inconsequential things like morality or compassion in a time of war.
For some time, Perry and Sir Jon made phone calls. But they could not accomplish anything. The Camelodians were not going to let them leave their house, nor were they going to let any member of The Ruling Family near what they were calling "Ground Zero." ***
A messenger came by and informed The Ruling Family that the Camelodians were keeping downtown Suburbia evacuated, due to the likelihood that The Rhoades Instruments Building would fall because of structural damage from debris.
Sir Jon wanted to know by what idiocy it was assumed such a massive and well supported structure could be felled by debris. "High rise buildings are not made of cardboard, you know," he commented.
But the messenger insisted that the building had indeed sustained considerable damage to crucial supports; that the damage was beyond all possibility of repair, and that a repeat of the fall of the M.T. building was inevitable.
"And what was it that The Montgomery Technical Building had sustained so much damage from?" Sir Jon demanded.
The messenger fumblingly put forward a theory of chemicals that might have been kept in the building without Camelodian awareness which had supported the fire and increased its intensity, melting and destabilizing the supports on every floor.
"It sounds like you're describing sabotage," Sir Jon commented sternly, in his most superior sounding Camelodian accent. "Am I to understand the Camelodian military is so incompetent as to have missed sabotage of that magnitude going on under its very noses?"
At this the messenger seemed quite downcast and apologetic as she admitted that this was their first real war deployment, and they had been so over-concentrated on looking for spies, obeying orders and doing everything by the book that the individual initiative it would take to notice anything out of the ordinary was negated, and had adversely limited their effectiveness.
The messenger then hastily entreated Sir Jon not to repeat what she had said, as it was a personal criticism she was not authorized to make, and to express it could get her into extremely hot water.
Sir Jon nodded understanding and dismissed the messenger.
Meanwhile, Perry was on the phone arguing with the Camelodian Field Commander, saying it was essential that he get his explosives experts into The Rhoades Instruments Building to find and defuse the hundreds of bombs Perry knew would be necessary to bring it down.
But the field commander assured Perry there were no bombs in his building, as it had been thoroughly swept. He dared to venture that Perry and Blair simply had not designed their buildings as well as they thought. She informed him that the building was leaning towards its damaged side, creating stress that Perry had failed to calculate.
At this Perry became incredulous, saying he could see on the TV, or by just looking out his window, that the building was not leaning. The center structure of the building made it physically impossible for the building to lean.
The Commander suggested that Perry was too distraught to be thinking clearly. He should just sit back and not worry, as everything was under control.
Meanwhile, a group of Camelodian explosives experts were at work on the detonator which The Shadow Cat had disabled, unaware that an unknown person had slipped in behind them and was hiding in the shadows, taking pictures with a cell phone.***
Once they were done repairing and resetting the timer, the Camelodians turned to leave, but stopped when they sensed the character in the shadows, draped in dark rags.
They assumed it to be some Ash that had crawled in to sleep. None the less, Ashes had been known to make damaging witnesses. So they drew their guns to kill it. But suddenly the figure in the shadows revealed a sawed off shot gun and blasted the two soldiers across the room.
The ragged figure then made its exit through the hole The Shadow Cat had made in the wall, leaving the soldiers to bleed to death.
Perry watched the TV as an announcer predicted the immanent fall of The Rhoades Instruments Building.***
He was enraged, asking if the Camelodians thought he was really so dense as to not know they were blowing up his building on purpose.
Sir Jon said he would have to take the blame for under-estimating the corruption of The Camelodians. But this was no consolation to Perry as he watched the TV, expecting to see his building fall at any moment, knowing it was probably packed tight with Suburbian citizens.
Perry's only hope was that The Shadow Cat would re-appear to prevent the detonation from being re-initiated, but Perry had not heard from him for some time, and he was worried.
At a perimeter blockade, a gray feline identified himself as Jasper Phillips and pressed his thumb to the DNA data base scanner of a Camelodian blockade officer to prove it. But the soldiers insisted that Jasper Phillips was dead, and that this must be a spy from Webberton that had somehow assumed his identity. ***
Jasper dismissively replied, "Whatever you say," and allowed himself to be taken into custody. He then found himself being transported back to the R.I. building, where he was forced into an elevator with several other prisoners.
"How unusual it seems to be using the elevator in a building as damaged as this one is supposed to be," Jasper casually commented.
The soldiers told him to be quiet, but he had succeeded in making them nervous.
Jasper was taken into an office which the Camelodians had transformed into an interrogation center. Then he was placed in a waiting room with numerous other prisoners.
There a gray squirrel girl he knew as Molly recognized him and exclaimed with joy to see him alive.
But Jasper shushed her and the others, telling them to deny him if anyone asked if they recognized him as Jasper Phillips.
The Rhoades household spent the night together in the drawing room watching the news in disbelief.***
Lappina eventually could hide in her room no longer. She joined the others, but clung to Perry for protection from what she perceived as a room full of enemies.
Everyone could see she was inordinately agitated and disturbed. But under the circumstances they mistakenly attributed this to the war situation unfolding on the TV.
Kacey and Vicki seemed just as disturbed, and were mostly speechless as they watched things unfold on the TV and listened to the analysis of The Ruling Family, surprised that for once in their lives The Ruling Family seemed to be completely out of control of a situation.
On the TV, the Camelodians announced that they were working through the night so that the people of Suburbia might return to their jobs in safety in the morning.
"What jobs?" Miyan mused. "With both Rhoades Instruments and Montgomery Technical out of business, Suburbia will be facing a 75% unemployment problem."
Perry conjectured, "What they're probably doing is hauling all incriminating evidence away, as well as stealing my technology."
Perry then passed around faxed photos that had just been sent to him; photos that showed the Camelodian soldiers re-setting the detonator. And one final picture which showed the soldiers lying unconscious after being blasted with what Sir Jon guessed was something along the lines of a sawed off shotgun loaded with rock salt.
Leela's ears pricked up as Sir Jon identified the weapon used. She looked at the picture with a smile of recognition, but did not venture to say anything to anyone of what she suspected.
As they continued to watch Timeline, The Mayor Of Camelot boasted of what a good job his soldiers did in protecting The Suburbians and subduing the attackers from Webberton.
Sir Jon called the Timeline number, but was informed that soldiers were guarding the studio and allowing only pre-approved call ins.
Sir Jon bellowed into the phone that as mayor he required no one's approval. But he was informed that only the acting Camelodian governor could authorize changes to the program.
In extreme anger, Sir Jon slammed down the phone just as the acting governor was being introduced on TV, and it was explained that, in these times of crisis, an experienced military leader was needed to coordinate efforts, and that The Ruling Family had agreed to the installation of the temporary governor whose orders would supersede theirs until such time as it was no longer necessary for Suburbia to be under martial law.
"Some friends you've got there, Dad," said Perry, pouring salt on his father's wounds.
Jasper kept a comforting arm around Molly while they sat in the waiting room, and she asked what he thought was going to happen to them. ***
Jasper replied calmly, "I imagine they'll hold us here until they can convince us we didn't hear and see what we heard and saw. Or until the building falls. Whichever comes first."
"You don't seem very nervous," Molly observed, her own insecurity beyond all concealment.
"Don't sweat it," said Jasper, in a reassuring tone. "I won't let anything bad happen to you. You know bullies don't stand a chance when I'm around."
"It's been a long time since you protected The Green Meadow Lands Gang from bullies," she reflected.
"But you haven't lost faith in me, have you?" asked Jasper, affectionately.
"Never," she replied, forcing a faithful smile through her fear.
When the Timeline program ended Sir Jon picked up the phone and called The Mayor Of Camelot directly, asking if he really thought he was going to get away with these extreme abuses of their defense contract. Next Episode
The Camelodian mayor pretended not to know what Sir Jon was talking about, saying all that had been done had been in strict accordance with their contract, right down to the very smallest print of it, which perhaps Sir Jon had neglected to read.
"I really don't understand why you're surprised by any of this," said The Mayor. "You lived in Camelot long enough to know this is all standard Camelodian procedure. Much of our standard procedure was established under your influence. You know that Camelodians may be seen to take rude and unprecedented steps in providing security, but it is all in the cause of efficiency. And Suburbians should feel free to rely on that efficiency without question. We're only doing our job, protecting your town from Webberton."
"How long do you anticipate Suburbia will need this protection?" asked Sir Jon, in a malevolent tone.
The Mayor chuckled and said, "Indefinitely, I should imagine. Unless by some miracle someday Webberton should cease to exist, Suburbia will always be threatened by it."
Sir Jon also allowed himself a good chuckle. Then he said, in an abruptly darker tone, "Yes, it is quite amusing how you deceived me, or encouraged me to deceive myself. But you likewise know well what I'm capable of when rubbed the wrong way. I will give you only one week to abandon that base and get your troops far away from Suburbia. If you do not, I promise you, you will lose everything I have given you, you ungrateful son of a bitch."
The Mayor laughed maniacally and said, "I am not moved by the empty threats of the helpless."
"You should contain your excitement, Mr. Mayor," said Sir Jon, in a slow, icy voice, as he projected his will through the telephone line. "You sound to me like someone about to have a heart attack. In fact, you sound to me like someone who has only seven days left to live."
The mayor's amusement abruptly faded as he felt an invisible hand closing around his heart.
"Know that your life is in my hands," said Jon, in a tone of murderous contempt, "as is the life of Camelot itself. If your soldiers have not withdrawn in a week's time, a storm such as no living Cygnesian has seen shall devastate Camelot. Do you still want to play war games with me?"
"Within a week I can erase your existence from this planet," said The Mayor.
"Are you sure?" asked Sir Jon, daringly. "Play your cards carefully, Mayor. The loser of this hand . . . will die."
Sir Jon hung up the phone and noted Christine watching him with a concerned expression.
"Speak," Sir Jon ordered, somewhat rudely, but Christine took no offense, maintaining the air of detached casual observer she seemed determined to keep up throughout these potentially deadly events, which was not surprising of someone who had once worked as a diplomatic ambassador.
"Are you planning to bring down the wrath of the gods?" she asked, seeming intrigued, but not terribly concerned.
"I'm sure you've realized by now that I am The Gods in this situation," said Sir Jon. "And that it is a burdensome responsibility."
"Like running a town is a burdensome responsibility?" she asked.
"Hmmmm," Sir Jon considered. "There is not much difference. In both cases a large population puts faith in you to hold the power of life and death over them, anticipating that you will not value their lives lightly."
"Or that you will not be foolish enough to be careless with the town to make up for having been careless as a god, or vice versa," Christine suggested.
"As The Mayor Of Suburbia I had some latitude for being careless," Sir Jon reflected. "In a female dominated society it was almost expected that I would screw some things up, if just to allow Sonny to prove female superiority by stepping in to clean up my messes."
Miss Sonny, sitting on the other side of the room with the others watching the TV, let out a little chuckle.
All assumed that what Christine and Sir Jon were discussing was between them and did their best to restrain the questions they were generating. Though both Becky and Grease were scribbling like crazy in their notebooks; this conversation by itself being almost as jaw dropping as anything they had seen on the TV that day.
"But in my capacity as the last of The Omman Lords, I have no such latitude," Sir Jon continued. "I must see to completion the last of our deceased creator's experiments, allowing nothing to interfere. And in that capacity, my powers are virtually unlimited and terrifying in their implications."
"But do you have the power to insure the result our creator anticipated?" asked Christine. "Or, if The Creator was wrong, is your obligation to prove it?"
"In any kind of experiment," said Sir Jon, "results will not be valid unless the intent to reveal all error is maintained. However, if the experiment is proven false, then the experiment is ended, and the future is for anyone who maintains power to decide."
"May we surmise that this war was set up by The Creator in order to prove something?" asked Christine.
"We are no longer in a situation where everything can be blamed on Ra," said Jon. "Ra is dead and has been for some time. He died before my very eyes, placing in my hand the key to the closet in which he kept the chronicles of the great experiment, which was us. And thus it was left to us, the three, you, Rael and myself, to finish it."
Leaving Becky to take notes on what Christine and Sir Jon were saying, Grease leaned close to Vicki and asked if all this talk of being gods with ultimate powers was to be taken seriously, or if Christine was just humoring a senile old fur.
"You'll get used to it," said Vicki, softly. "I love Christine like a sister, but she's not of this world. This house itself is not of this world. There's no reason to think any understanding that exists between Christine and Sir Jon is not real. Just stop expecting anything they say to make sense to we who have never traveled time and space, or been to Magical School, or lived for thousands of years."
"But if they are gods, why do they not stop the buildings from falling?" asked Grease.
Vicki looked at Grease helplessly, saying, "Of all the people to ask, why me?"
"Because you are closest to Christine," said Grease.
"Not that close, apparently," said Vicki. "When those two get into it, I feel just as lost and confused as you do."
"Interesting," Christine reflected, ignoring Vicki and Grease. "Then you are not the last of the gods. You are not empowered to act alone. You require Perry and myself to support you. Why have you not asked for our support?"
"Until recently you weren't available," said Sir Jon. "And Perry was not in a position to assume Rael's part in our trinity."
"And so you proceeded on your own, creating plans upon plans that were ineffective due to your lack of completeness," Christine reflected.
"Was it not the same for you in your former life?" asked Sir Jon, perceptively.
"It was," Christine agreed. "And perhaps for Perry as well. We all have had good intentions, but we can not function as The Creator intended unless we work together. And as we are all together now, perhaps you should not . . ."
"Do anything insanely godlike without your approval?" asked Sir Jon.
At this Perry could not help but burst out laughing, while waving at Christine and his father to ignore him.
"I would not venture to advise my Sensei," said Christine, with amused affection.
"I listen to you," Sir Jon assured her. "Do you disapprove of my threats to The Mayor Of Camelot?"
"Frankly, I don't," said Christine. "I don't think anything has ever been gained by pussy footing around with evil. I think, if the experiment is to succeed, we need to be free to adapt it, change the rules when they are found to be ineffective."
"Exactly which rule are you thinking is ineffective?" asked Sir Jon.
"Would you agree with me if I suggested democracy was a totally ineffective tool in eliminating evil?" asked Christine.
"I must admit I've never seen democracy do anything but bring out the worst in any civilization," said Sir Jon.
"Then it would seem that, without governance, Ra's creations are completely incapable of not being corrupted by evil," said Christine.
"Ra's creations are afflicted with certain viruses which they can not avoid," said Sir Jon.
"And you have proven that these viruses can not be destroyed or bread out?" Christine surmised.
"That would be an accurate assessment of my experiments," said Sir Jon. "Humans can only synch with good if ruled by good. And good governance can not be guaranteed from one generation to the next. Thus it is no good for humans to be ruled by other humans. They must be ruled by an immortal religion or philosophy that stresses uncompromising good."
"But are humans capable of inventing such a religion?" Christine pondered.
"They are not," said Sir Jon, as if it were a well proven fact. "But perhaps we of Ra's trinity may create such a religion."
"In that event," Christine suggested, "any act we perform may become an aspect of the religion we would establish. Therefore we must consider if using our god-like powers to threaten and destroy our enemies is a good example to leave to the future."
"A very wise thought indeed," said Sir Jon. "So now do you disapprove of my threats?"
"Again," said Christine, affectionately, "I would not venture to disapprove of my Sensei. It is enough that you have thought about it."
"Ah," said Sir Jon, approvingly. "I see your point. This must be the nature of The Trinity. The one to hold absolute power must be three in order that sane counsel be maintained to avoid corruption."
"I know this much about you from our school days," said Christine. "On your own you might do any crazy thing. But when you know I'm watching and absorbing your example, you will do nothing you would not want me to emulate. You will do nothing you know is not good."
"Christine, let's be realistic about this," said Sir Jon. "This is war. War is chaos. To bring order back from chaos I may have to kill a lot of people. How am I going to do that in a way you'll see as good?"
"Do you think of me as some kind of innocent hippie child?" asked Christine. "During the time I worked with The Rebellion I learned the realities of war. There is no nice way to get around it. When other people are out to kill you or enslave you, you have to defend yourself. Don't hold back because you fear I won't approve anything that doesn't suit a childish belief that love rights all wrongs. That wouldn't be the right thing to do. And it certainly wouldn't set an effective example that the future could live by."
"Then the commandment we will send to the future is 'Thou shalt kill?'" asked Sir Jon.
"Thou shalt not kill is predicated on the assumption that a god exists to kill your enemies for you," said Christine. "And therefore you should not stain your hands with blood. That's not going to be the case for the future, is it?"
"Not likely," said Sir Jon. "Anywhere people exist there will be some people deciding they need to kill or enslave them. And being passive about it will only result in death or enslavement, because there will be no gods, no magic; only mortal humans who will live and die by their own wisdom, or lack thereof."
"Then the commandment of The Trinity, should Perry approve it, should be to never be passive with those who make war on you," said Christine, as Perry listened thoughtfully, not really wanting anything to do with this trinity business. "It should be known that humans are in full control of their own destiny, and those who seek to do evil onto others can not be stopped by reason or compassion. They need to be dealt with according to the severity of their trespass, regardless of how regrettable it may seem. Humans must learn to recognize evil the moment it rears its ugly head, and to waste no time in destroying it before it destroys them. That would be the only way humans might successfully manage the virus of evil they carry."
"I see," said Sir Jon. "And who shall define what is evil being done onto others, as if that is not the excuse Camelot is using to justify its actions right now?"
"That's for those under attack to determine," said Christine. "Regardless of their intentions, be they good or otherwise, we are obviously not under attack by anyone but Camelot. Even if they do not recognize the evil in seeking to defend others who have not asked to be defended, it is still evil. Humans have every right to throw their lives away if the only alternative is a war from which no good can come. To feel one has the power to take on that decision on behalf of others is the effect of The White Virus, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm surprised you understand the concept so well," said Sir Jon. "But do you understand so well the workings of The Black Virus?"
"Would I be right in assuming The Black Virus is The White Virus inverted?" asked Christine.
"You would," said Sir Jon.
"So, where The White Virus would inspire humans to do evil under the justification of defending others who haven't necessarily asked to be defended," Christine surmised, "The Black Virus would inspire humans to do evil onto those perceived as having done evil because of their tendency to defend other people without being asked."
"And do you understand that it was The White Virus that drove you to want to defend Perry against the customs of his society, even though he told you repeatedly he liked things the way they were?" asked Sir Jon, "and that it is The Black Virus that's gaining a foothold through this new philosophy that's taking root in The Aviary and Noir?"
"Wait a minute," said Christine, thoughtfully. "Are you saying that the root of both evils is the human obsession with social justice?"
Grease seemed about to jump out of his chair and start indignantly spouting rhetoric about the virtues of social justice, but Becky restrained him and clamped his beak shut.
"You tell me, Christine," said Sir Jon. "You're a war child. Have you ever known any war were both sides were not utterly convinced that their actions were justified as the enforcement or defense of social justice?"
Christine found herself going cross-eyed trying to wrap her mind around what Sir Jon was suggesting.
"I can't deny that's true," Christine finally admitted. "But if social justice is an inherently evil concept, where else is good to be found?"
"If I knew the answer to that, we could fix the problem," said Sir Jon.
"It would not be enough for The Omman Trinity to leave behind the commandment ‘Thou shalt not fight for social justice?'" asked Christine.
"As a healer you know perfectly well that, when dealing with viruses, the commandment ‘Thou shalt not sneeze' would be utterly useless," said Sir Jon.
"The commandment in that respect would be ‘Thou shalt take thy medicine,'" said Christine. "What medicine would counter the human drive to regard social justice as so important people would kill each other over it?"
"The only thing I've ever been able to come up with is a commandment that says, ‘Thou shalt live and let live until thy living is infringed upon. Then thou shalt kill without mercy to protect thy space," said Sir Jon.
Christine seemed shocked at the harshness of Jon's words, but she forced herself to contemplate them before reacting. Then she said, "In other words, live simply in your own space, never bothering others about what values they practice in their space, because at the end of the day it's none of your business. But when people come into your space trying to change it against your will, you have a right to defend what's yours. But that right ends at the border of your territory. You can eject invaders, if they will leave, but you can't pursue them into their territory and impose your values on it. You only have a right to defend what's yours."
"Do you approve?" asked Sir Jon.
"Well, I suppose that philosophy works fine for skunks and porcupines," said Christine, drawing curious expressions from Michelle and Patti, neither of whom understood how such ideas applied to them as a skunk and a porcupine.
"Actually it doesn't," said Sir Jon. "They still get eaten."
"Is it not Nature's way that animals get eaten?" asked Christine.
"That's my problem, Christine," said Sir Jon. "I'm trying to cure humans of how Nature has decreed they should be?"
"Jon," said Christine, in a very serious tone. "Even as Ra's Trinity, do we really have the right to decide that Nature is wrong and go against it?"
"I think we do."
"Because Nature blessed humanity with the unique ability to seek its own destiny."
"And wouldn't you say that's their territory?" asked Christine. "Son of Ra as you may be, does that really give you the right to dictate for humanity what Nature intended humanity to figure out for itself? It couldn't be that what you're trying to do is impossible because humanity can't be influenced or commanded to be good. Maybe it has to come up with the will to be good on its own?"
"It will never do that," said Jon, in a tone that suggested there could be no question about this. "Unless I can change it, humanity will continue to be a thing of evil. And I will destroy humanity utterly before I'll allow that evil to continue into the new universe."
All eyes in the room suddenly trained on Sir Jon in shock. It was bad enough to learn that Sir Jon held the power of life and death over humanity, let alone that he did not seem to like humanity at all.
Christine likewise stared at Jon in jaw dropped shock, tears quickly welling in her eyes, as if she felt Jon had personally condemned and rejected her for racial reasons. And she said, with choked emotion, "But . . . But . . . I'm human. If you destroy humanity, you'll destroy all others in the future who might be like me. Am I really that evil in your eyes?"
"You're a fox," said Jon, dismissively.
"Oh, stop it," cried Christine, emotionally. "I'm no more a fox than any other half human vulpine on this planet."
"Are you going to beg me to spare humanity for your sake?" asked Jon. "Suppose I order Rocie to give you the power to search out others like yourself in the future. How many should I require you to find to justify all the death and horror human kind will inflict throughout time in the new universe? How many do you think you could find; three, ten? Would you not sacrifice your own life to prevent the death and horror of just one human war?"
"That isn't your decision to make for me or anyone like me," said Christine, tearfully. "But as for myself, if I had a choice to surrender my existence, along with the existence of all humanity, in order to prevent the war I was born into, so that my parents wouldn't have had to suffer as they did, I wouldn't do it. Because then my parents would never have been, just as I would never have been. And I would not want to deny them the beauty of the lives they lived before the war destroyed them."
"You can say that, even knowing what your father did?" asked Sir Jon. "You no longer regard your father as a monster?"
"That is not fair," Christine cried, tears spilling from her eyes. "Everything he did was to protect me, because I was his space. I was all he had."
"And in the end he could not even protect you from himself," said Jon, with uncommon cruelty.
"Are you really so ungrateful for the gift his existence gave you?" asked Christine, hardly able to speak through her tears. "Would you have rather never had me in your life, because you hate humanity that much?"
"Have you ever considered," said Jon, "that if humanity had been eradicated before our time, my mother would not have died at the hands of humans, my brother would not have been taken away from me, and my forest would not have been devastated. And though I have lived thousands of years since then, humanity has never managed to undo its first impressions on me."
"And do you feel the same way about wolves, and foxes?" asked Christine. "Is any enemy of deer and rabbits your enemy, even though you probably haven't been a deer for thousands of years? How can you be this way? Is even the son of Ra himself that vulnerable to The Black Virus? Has everything you've ever done been to achieve social justice for the massacre at Rubicon Forest?"
"Actually, no," Jon relented. "Once I became a Time Captain I hardly thought about it at all. It's only you coming back into my life that has reminded me of those times."
"Then I'm sorry I came here," said Christine.
"Don't be," said Sir Jon, emotionally. "I need you."
"Why do you need me?" asked Christine, sadly. "Evil human thing that I am in your eyes."
"I need you because you're right," Jon admitted, looking downcast. "I am consumed with The Black Virus. It has made a monster of me. And this war, this unholy screw up I have achieved, is the result of it. Help me, Christine. I must find the answer."
Christine seemed visibly relieved to find that Jon's anti-human feelings were not immovable. Thus it was something she could most likely help him get beyond. Still, the answer Sir Jon sought was the solution to a problem that had plagued humanity since the beginning of time. She could not see how any answer she came up with was likely to be the one Jon needed, if indeed there was any such answer to be found.
"I can't help you find what doesn't exist," said Christine. "There is no way for you to mold humanity into what you think it ought to be, because that's not what Ra created you for. So he never gave you that power."
"Ra is dead," said Jon, coldly. "I'm no longer dependent on him for the extent of my powers in this universe. And neither are you, for that matter. Or Perry."
"I thought our powers were diminished by Ra's passing," said Christine.
"Only so long as you reach out to him for power he can no longer give you," said Jon. "But once you realize you're new place in this universe you'll be so much more than a healer. You'll be a goddess."
"I've never been interested in being a demigod, have you?" asked Christine.
"Not especially," said Sir Jon.
"Do I have enough rank in The Trinity to ask you to give up your foolish plan?" asked Christine. "To just let humanity be whatever it will be, for better or worse?"
"If you mean will I decline to destroy humanity for your sake . . . " said Sir Jon. "Well, I'm sure I couldn't go through with it with you watching anyway."
Christine breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Well, at least we got that out of the way."
"So shall we forget the matter of the commandment?" asked Sir Jon.
"I think not," said Christine. "I think we've come up with a good commandment, and we ought to let it govern our actions."
"Meaning we should do whatever we must to protect Suburbia," said Sir Jon. "And otherwise stay the hell out of everyone else's business."
"Works for me," said Christine. "We have asked the Camelodians to leave, and they've refused. If we put up with their abuse, we will just encourage more of it. It is only by showing the extreme measures we're willing to use to stop them that others will be deterred from trying this in the future,"
"Are you very sure we shouldn't love and tolerate them to death?" asked Sir Jon, as if to remind Christine of her childhood outlook on life.
"I don't recall that strategy ever being recommended during our schooling," said Christine. "I seem to remember being told that peaceful resistance was nothing but a good way of getting a lot of people killed. And I certainly saw that borne out by The Rebellion. Peaceful resistance can only work when your enemies care about you and don't want to kill you. That will never be the case in an ideological conflict."
"So the wage of war is death," said Sir Jon. "And after all our experience, that is the best we can come up with?"
"You know it is," said Christine. "As long as human beings have any expectation what so ever that they can get away with it, they will perpetrate evil on others. Only when it is fully understood that trespass will be punished will humans have reason to value peace."
"Does it bother you at all how much your father would have approved that statement?" asked Jon.
"Only in so much that I treated him more cruelly than he deserved because of my immaturity," said Christine.
"Then if you were to meet him again, you would forgive him?" asked Sir Jon.
"For nuking Nihongo or for raping me?" asked Christine, not waiting for an answer. "Perhaps, when I go back to my time, I will see him again, and I will try my best not to look on those things as his fault. Just as I will not look on anything you are forced to do in this situation as your fault. It is Camelot and Webberton that foolishly cling to the idea of divinely endorsed imperial conquest. And regardless of who ends up with the responsibility for dealing out the required punishment for that folly, they will not share the blame. They will just have ended a situation human beings should have known never should have been started in the first place."
"So if I were to offer you an airplane and a nuclear bomb, would you destroy Camelot?" asked Sir Jon.
Christine thought a moment, as if finding the idea repugnant, but then she maintained her resolve and said, "If there was no other way to save Suburbia from them, I would do it."
"But what if I lied to you?" asked Sir Jon. "What if I was making all this up and Camelot were just trying to be the good guys? What if I wanted you to destroy them for me so I'd be able to get away with something evil?"
"I wouldn't nuke them unless I was sure beyond all doubt I was destroying the bad guys," said Christine. "I wouldn't do it just because you told me to. It would be my business as one of the good guys to be absolutely sure and have to take no one's word for it."
Sir Jon chuckled, as if lightening up, saying, "You know, I'll never get used to you being this mature. In a way I still miss my adopted little sister."
"Strangely I feel the same way about you," said Christine. "I miss my somewhat impetuous big brother who hadn't quite taken the weight of the universe on his shoulders yet."
"Still, it's nice to have someone besides Sonny who knows me well enough to help me sort out my messes," said Sir Jon. "And you have helped me get beyond my injured pride to see this situation more rationally. I will not destroy Camelot for what they have done; I will merely show that I can get them to go away if I want them to.
"It will be more effective if I exploit the loopholes in their religion. The literature on which they base their religion encourages them to gamble, as well as to be so deceitful that their left hand rarely knows what their right hand is doing. Thus, no Camelodian soldier dares guess at orders. They dare not think for themselves the right or wrong of what they're told to do. They can only hope that the chain of command is in order and knows what it's doing. And they dare not care if what it is doing is morally sound or not. Indeed, in any military oriented state, morality is determined by the chain of command. Therefore you do not move Camelot without striking the fear of the gods at the highest point of the chain of command."
"Still The Master Of Games after all these years," Christine observed.
"Have you lost confidence in my gaming skills?" asked Sir Jon.
"In your ability to win the impossible game? Never," said Christine. "But I remember your strategies can be a little hard on your friends. In fact, I can see why you got on so well with Camelot. Your strategies were not so different from theirs. To you winning was always the most important thing, even if all your friends had to die, or end up spending considerable time in a torture chamber."
"You're referring to my strategy for winning the Aslander game," said Sir Jon. "It was indeed difficult. I had to be willing to sacrifice myself to win."
"I never got a chance to ask you if you knew beforehand that Rael was the only one who could defeat Omega," said Christine. "Did things go according to your strategy? Or did Rael pull your tail out of the fire after your strategy totally bombed out?"
"I did not know that Rael was the one against whom Omega would demonstrate a fatal weakness," said Jon. "I was counting just as much on you as I was Rael and myself. My strategy was that, if we all hit him with everything we had, one of us would capture his crown. As things worked out, I would not say my strategy was a failure."
"But not particularly brilliant either, I take it," Perry interjected, his patience for staying out of the conversation exhausted.
"That is another mistake The Camelodians are prone to," said Sir Jon. "They think in war one wins points for brilliant strategies. But very often the most effective strategy of ‘Hit 'em With Everything You've Got' provides the decisive win. And Camelot has some awareness of what I could hit them with if I was willing to pull out all the stops. They are gambling that I will not pull out all the stops, because it will reveal things about myself I don't want the world to know. They are gambling that I will be as protective of my secrets as they are of theirs."
"In that event I should put my money on Camelot," said Perry.
"Oh, no, Perry," said Christine. "Never bet against your father. Winning means more to him than the protection of any secret. It means more to him than your life . . . Or mine."
"But he equates your life with the survival of the universe," said Perry.
"It doesn't matter," said Christine. "I'm still a card in his deck. And he will risk playing me if he feels it necessary to win."
"Does it bother him that I don't approve?" asked Perry.
"Of course," said Christine. "It always has, even when we knew you as Rael. But still that's never stopped him."
"You don't mind being a card in my deck, do you, Perry?" asked Sir Jon, cryptically.
"What can I do against Camelot?" asked Perry.
"You will know, when I play you," said Sir Jon.
Perry shrugged, as if to say this was typical of his father, and returned his attention to the TV screen. But after considering Camelot's repetitious rhetoric for a moment he asked, "Is there any chance that Suburbia actually is under attack from Webberton as the news program suggests? The reports seem very convincing."
"It is the function of smoke and mirrors to make an illusion look convincing," said Sir Jon. "But logic will foil it every time. Consider this. Are the Camelodians lying about a single terrorist bomb and a single crashed helicopter knocking down a building and threatening to bring down another?"
"They certainly are," Blair interjected, dryly.
"It is good that you are so certain of that," said Sir Jon. "If you had any doubt at all in your ability to judge the science involved, you would be vulnerable to deception, as are the 97% of the population who are not extensively educated in physics and architecture. Now consider this question. Does Webberton have the technology and skill to wire 2 mile high buildings for demolition on their best day, let alone under the noses of the Camelodians?"
"Webberton is largely dependent on me for their technology," said Blair. "Conscientious fellows like Perry prefer to spread their technology to more reputable towns, like Noir, who end up using it to attack Suburbia. I, however, am far too cautious to give Webberton any technology they might use to attack Halloween. So, no. They absolutely do not have that ability."
"Very well then," said Sir Jon. "Who did have the technology and the opportunity to wire the buildings for demolition?"
"The Camelodians with their emergency evacuation drills," said Perry.
"So far your observation skills are up to par," said Sir Jon. "But now look out the window and tell me if you see fighting in the streets or in the air between Camelodian and Webberton forces."
"I do not," said Perry
"Well, then," said Sir Jon. "Under the circumstances, who does logic dictate we're at war with?"
"Logic would seem to dictate we're at war with Camelot," said Perry. "But this does not seem like any kind of war I've ever read about. What kind of war is it where you just invite your enemies in and allow them to do whatever they please to you?"
"Both Camelot and Webberton are well aware that conventional warfare will not fly on Cygnus," said Blair. "Neither favors the physically attack and overwhelm by force method of warfare that was common to the elder race. Because there's always the possibility of other towns banding together to create a greater opposing power. Or of people simply becoming overwhelmed with righteous indignation to a point that a very few will sacrifice themselves to bring their enemy down. It is not numbers or technology that often turn the tide in war, but conviction of spirit and determination. These must first be defeated before any long lasting conquering can take place.
"Therefore, psychological warfare is favored among those towns on Cygnus with imperialistic constitutions. The threat of an army from Webberton marching into Suburbia and overwhelming the town by force is just a threat, a terror tactic. It's not something they would ever actually do. Because once they do it, they'd be easily enough destroyed. Therefore, in order for Camelot to conquer Suburbia, they must deceive you into handing it over to them willingly, so that their forces do not appear to be an invasion. But in fact you have been invaded. You just neglected to close the front door, allowing them easy access."
"It's irritating how much satisfaction you seem to take in us making such a mistake," said Perry.
"It is difficult not to take satisfaction in being proven a superior ruler," said Blair. "Something like this would never happen in Halloween."
"I'm sorry, Perry," Miss Sonny interjected. "But Blair makes a good point. He has every right to gloat."
"You agree that this wouldn't happen in Halloween under Blair's rule?" asked Perry.
"Of course it wouldn't," said Miss Sonny. "Blair is too practical to trust the obviously untrustworthy."
"And also too practical to trust the defense of his town to an outside partnership that could potentially go sour," Leela added. "Blair may not as yet have had a chance to build up Halloween's own military for self-defense, but he doesn't need it. Blair Montgomery is of himself a defensive force no town on this planet could stand against."
"Well, I'm glad someone fully appreciates my achievements," said Blair. "Perhaps I should give more tours of my castle to potential enemies."
"Stop patting yourself on the back, boy," said Sir Jon. "Such over confidence will be your downfall. Now, apply your minds to this question. Did Webberton initially employ their terror tactic to create an opening for Camelot to take over Suburbia, or was that just a ploy to scare Jenny and Perry into an arranged marriage that would have given Webberton influence over Suburbia?"
"The latter would be typical of Queen Devilla," said Blair. "And it would also have been typical of her to back out when she saw how Camelot intended to capitalize on her tactic, because Webberton would never engage in open warfare with Camelot. It would be suicide. But if Camelot took over Suburbia, Perry might use his influence with Jenny to call Webberton in as an ally. Webberton would enjoy the feeling of respectability it would give them. They may even have sent The Shadow Cat here to help us. Not to mention the probability of Webberton increasing its influence over Suburbia through such an alliance. But Camelot is depending on Suburbia to remain terrified of Webberton. As long as Suburbia is terrified, it will give Camelot everything it wants without a fight."
"A war of terrorism," Perry pondered. "Where nothing actually happens. People merely scare each other into victory or defeat."
"I'll confess something to you, Perry," said Blair. "I employed a variation of the same tactic to get control of Halloween. There is nothing the people of Halloween fear more than the possibility of their town failing. It was no trick for me to magnify that fear in their minds, nor to convince them that I was the only one who could save them from it. Because of that, they can refuse me nothing. I as well as own that town. And I can gain control of many other towns the same way. So could you, or even Christine. Certainly Sir Jon could do it."
"The only difference being that we're too scrupulous to do it," Christine added.
"That's the unfortunate Catch 22 in this situation," Blair explained. "You who actually have the best interests of everyone at heart are far too restrained by your morals to use the power you possess. You're interested in saving the world, but not if you have to conquer it first to do it. In a world where terrorism is a decisive factor, good can never win out over evil. Good requires freedom of intellect to function. And as you can see, freedom of intellect is what The Camelodians are trying to suspend."
"Blair, did you teach The Camelodians this?" asked Perry, in shock.
"Certainly not," said Blair, in disgust. "I have nothing to do with Camelot. They're just as much my enemy as yours. No, someone else in this room is responsible for bringing this awareness to our planet. And we all bloody well know who it is."
"I suppose I might have taught them a bit much," said Sir Jon, sadly.
"Don't flatter yourself," said Blair. "I wasn't referring to you this time. It was Perry who taught this world the power of fear. The Golden Boy against whom not one disparaging word could be said, for fear of losing all the good things his presence had made them accustomed to. The Golden Boy who acquired unprecedented power by portraying himself to be delicate and perishable, even after he had acquired strength and durability that many would envy.
"I have watched you do it all my life. Watched you instill fear in your friends to get your way, or to get out of things you didn't want to do, even if you could have done them. That's why I grew to hate you, Perry. Because there has not been a day I have not seen you demonstrate the effectiveness of terrorism to the world."
"Perry, don't fall for this," said Christine, seeing that Perry was being worked into a bad state by Blair's words. "He's trying to psych you out."
"No," said Perry. "No, Blair does hate me. There is no doubt of that. There must be some reason."
"But you know it's not true," said Vicki. "You never abused your illness to get your way with your friends, or the town. You were too honorable for that."
"Was I?" asked Perry. "I'm not sure. I don't remember so clearly. Maybe there were times when I overstated things to get my way. Or maybe I just fooled myself into thinking I was weaker than I really was."
"I congratulate you, Blair," said Sonny. "You are indeed adept at terrorism. Look at yourself, Perry. With only a few words Blair has reduced you to a trembling mass of uncertainty. In that state you could be convinced to take the sins of the world on your own shoulders, whether you've rightful claim to do so or not. Blair has confused you of your very identity. And in this guilt he has filled your being with, you will become his pawn. Through you he can control Suburbia as freely as he controls Halloween."
"Is she right, Blair?" asked Perry.
"Absolutely," said Blair. "What I did was mix just enough of the truth with a lie to get you to buy the lie."
"The truth being that you hate me," Perry supposed.
"Unfortunately, yes," said Blair. "I then employed the probability that you might have abused your illness a time or two over the course of your life. This provided a little hole in your character that could be ripped at to make you see yourself as hopelessly immoral. This enabled me to hit you with the final lie that you are responsible for the ills of the entire world, and [snap] your free will was utterly destroyed. And that is why tomorrow your building will be lying in ruins, and the Camelodians will have convinced you it was all your fault.
"That is the real reason why I hate you. You are weak - far weaker than you even imagine yourself. And a person in your position, with your responsibilities, has no business being that weak."
"Then, if my building falls tomorrow it's not my fault?" asked Perry.
"Certainly not," said Blair. "It's clearly all your father's fault, and maybe a bit of mine for getting too cocky."
"Please, at this point, don't be generous," said Sir Jon, dryly.
"Thank you, I won't," said Blair. "The blame's all yours, and you're welcome to it."
"How rude," Christine remarked.
"It is never rude when someone states the truth, Christine," said Sir Jon. "And if there's one thing this situation does not need, it's more lies to save face. I'm guilty as charged. I have made mistakes when I had responsibility to not be so careless. I will gain nothing by denying others the right to rebuke me for it in as rude a wording as they deem appropriate."
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