NEAR FUTURE chapter 14

copyrights Frankie Perussault

This is a rough translation from my own writing in French.

The summer of 2050 had been scorching, without a drop of rain for months with temperatures up to 45°C day after day. The population in the low-town had been multiplied by three. A lot of people seeking refuge had moved to the low-town not only for shopping but to settle there for good. The cost of renting had been multiplied by three as well.

At first Ninon and Weven curled up and remained on their own, dead scared as they were of being detected. Then a few times a day they took turns in escaping the tiny premises to walk about the streets in the low-town. Each of them had finally found their own way. Weven had taken an address at Pit-St-Maur where he knew the owner of an inn. He slowly renewed with old friends and Green colleagues, less Tara but added with new faces. Ninon was renting an apartment where she settled with her son Souvana, on the first floor of a building at Pit-Etrechet. They had survived the appalling airdrop at the beginning of the year in Laos but hardly saw each other now.

Souvana went to kindergarten. From reckonings and calculations his date of birth had been established. He had been given an identity stating that he had Ninon as his mother and Antwahn as his father, and that he was a European of the French nation. Despite all evidence his birth on another planet was not officially recognized as the law did not allow it any possible birth outside Earth. At home between them Ninon and her son kept on speaking iparke.

- Mum, when are we going to see papa Jaraye again?
- Jaraye is not your daddy, darling, I already told you.
- Yes but I'd like to see him. 
- One day maybe, when you're a big boy…
- No, now! I want to see Jaraye now!

Ninon did not know how to reply to her son on his many requests to see the man who had taken him in his arms when he was born and had instilled in him that he was a little prince. She missed Jaraye too. Sometimes she would cry herself to sleep pulling the sheet over her head. She used to take Souvana against her then and both went to sleep dreaming of being elsewhere. In the morning they had to face reality again, go to school and be scolded by ladies who did not like his pretense to be a little prince.

As Ninon did not seem to recall her mother, Andrew took an initiative. One day he asked Ninon to accompany him to the medical home where she lived, in a nice little building on the surface. Aunty Agathe, as he called her, had been informed her daughter Ninon was back, alive and in town. She expected her visit with anxiety and disbelief.

- Hello mother, Ninon managed to articulate in front of the wheelchair where an old woman was smiling to her.
- Good morning Ninon, was the reply and silence settled in.
- Aunty Agathe, Andrew broke in, do you recognize her? She did not forget you, you see!
- Lier, Agathe retorted without any expression on her face.
- Mother, you'll have to believe me when I come later to tell you what happened to me. I am here to-day near you. The four years of my absence…
- Five years, Ninon, five long years. Where were you? What about your studies at university? Your medical studies? Your professors were so proud of you! Do you realize?

Ninon started crying quietly. Her mother had all the right to rebuke her. But…

- Oh! she's done better than that, Andrew intervened. We are all terribly proud of her.
- Proud for what?… to have given up her studies and her mother?

Thereupon Ninon grabbed her cousin's hand and pulled him towards the door. She whizzed down the stone staircase that lead to the medical home, flopped on the last step at the bottom and started crying howling 'no' a number of times. Andrew said to his aunt he would be back another day and went to sit next to Ninon on the steps.

- Look at your campus, do you recognize it? They built a new hospital, can you see the building over there?
- Mmm… said Ninon who lifted her head and scanned the green campus of the Medical School in Velles where she had been a student for three years.
- Are you really back on Earth, Ninon? I get the impression that you live somewhere else in your head.

They stood up and walked side by side silently towards the building of the third year students. Ninon started walking faster going to the auditorium where a lecture was taking place. She pushed the folding door and, as if she was just a bit late, went to sit down in the tier. Andrew was not following her. He retraced his steps to go and see his aunt again.

During the whole lecture on partial paralyses given by a lecturer she did not know, Ninon remained quiet taking notes on a small screen placed in front of each seat. At the end of his speech the lecturer started to answer the numerous questions he could read on his own screen coming from the students in the auditorium. At one stage he read out loud one question lifting his head and searching in the audience who it could come from:

- Can a paralysis of one half of the body due to a heart attack five years ago get fixed completely?… It can be treated, but be entirely healed, no… he replied scanning the auditorium to find the author of the question. Who here is called Ninon? he added.

Ninon raised her arm. The whole auditorium turned towards her. Then the professor read on the various questions giving them brief answers. Later in his office in front of her screen, his secretary would work at giving full answers with all references for further studies on the subject.

At the end of the lecture the professor waved to Ninon to come down and meet him. He thought he had heard of a student who had disappeared some years ago, a pretty Eurasian from what they said, a disappearance that had remained unexplained for everybody. Yes, she had been a student here five years ago. She gave her own professor's name. An appointment was made, addresses exchanged, then Ninon walked simply out.

She patted her ear to contact Andrew who had gone home assuring him she was quite able to go home without an escort. Ninon found herself on her own in the middle of the campus lawn, alone and completely free. She had not had this pleasure since she had 'disappeared' as they said. At the palace with Jaraye she had all she wanted except in fact that possibility to move about without an escort. Her joy became quickly mixed with the gut feeling scare of being spotted, a fear shared by the two Greens in the same situation, Weven and Song-Hong, but which no one in their close circle understood really. She walked fast to the bubble bus stop to get back to Pit-Etrechet.

That precise day Weven had gone to visit the hosting family who looked after Tara's baby. When they had arrived a few months earlier, the baby had been put in care of a host family by the administration thus depriving Weven of his role as adoptive father he had contemplated.

- Good morning Mr Weven.It is kind of you to visit us… She's asleep, I dare not disturb her.
- Never mind, I'll wait until she wakes up, he replied walking in and settling in an armchair.
- She's changed a lot, you know, since your last visit.
- In the last ten days?
- Oh yes, babies grow up fast, you know.
- I miss her a lot, Weven emphasized.
- But you're not her father! the lady exclaimed.
- …and you're not her mother, Weven retorted, I knew her mother and her father very well. Her mother entrusted her to me on her death bed, he added embroidering his words slightly since he could not find any other serious argument. I want to have her back.
- Don't even dream of it, sir. You, a Green man? take care of a little girl? don't even dream of it!
- Yes, I dream of it and I'm about to…

At that point a baby's cries were heard in the next room. Weven walked with great strides towards the room, pushed the door open aggressively and took the little one in his arms. She stopped crying and started babbling away. She did have changed a lot, a real little girl now, he thought.

- Hello Tarabelle, good morning baby, you're so beautiful! Weven said spontaneously. He had just given her a name.

The lady was calling the police.

- A Green man has entered my place and is trying to kidnap the baby I host! she was crying in the phone.
- What's his name?
- Weven something…
- Leave him alone, he has the right to look after that child every other week. Thank you for calling us anyway. Good bye Madam.

Tight smiles on both faces. Weven would bring her back in a week's time. He came out of the house holding the baby tight in his arms and decided on the spur of the moment to go and see Ninon.

- Isn't she sweet! Ninon exclaimed, how are you going to look after her?

Being eight months old now little Tarabelle could crawl around everywhere. Souvana who talked iparke to her laughed heartedly when she tried to hang onto him.

- I don't know how I'll manage but I'll find a way. What if I mentioned it to JM?
- Absolutely not! no! the poor fellow doesn't even know Tara is dead. So, talking to him about a baby she had with someone else… he'd drop straight dead.
- But who do you want me to talk about it? I'm a Green man, Ninon… What if I said I was the emperor's aide-de-camp on the planet Alef36?
- You could say you're going to talk about it to the President of Europe… well yes, thinking of it now… JM's daughter Karine lives in Strasbourg and she's married to some important guy in the Parliament, something or other. Antwahn once told me about a trip his father had done to Strasbourg… Yes, right! listen Weven, go and see JM, tell him very gently that Tara died and ask him his daughter's address. I'll look after Tarabelle, no problem.

°°°   °°°   °°°

Andrew had gone home to the large house in town on surface where he had met the others living in what they called "Antwahn's house". They had remained on surface this summer despite the heat. Anne and Song-Hong were living as a couple settled on the ground floor as lords of the house. Jessica was living with Martin who spent his time between his father's apartment and the top floor of the big house where they had made their nest in the loft under the roof. The only champions left for the single folks were now Sylvaine and Andrew.  

- …champions of the single folks, you're joking! I'm really fed up to be alone in my bed, Sylvaine stated one day. What about if we organized some stuff?
- Some stuff? asked Jessica who was not too sure of her french.
- Yes, I mean some great party to celebrate something… a birthday… a discovery… a marriage… a birth… a divorce… Sylvaine carried on.
- Yeah! a divorce! her cousin cut in. A funeral while you're at it!… wait there, I have an idea! We shall celebrate the coming of Song-Hong on Earth.

Five years before during the summer of 2045 a small batch of Asia Greens were airdropped in the north of Hanoi. They had been  questioned on the phone by Antwahn, then in the bunker of the IIRE in Luang Prabang in Laos, and one of them had nearly admitted he was acquainted with "captain Tara", a French speaking Green woman who was living in CHX in Europe. It was Song-Hong, so called by the young Andrew, a new recruit at the IIRE and since then a colleague and best friend of Antwahn's.

- But Andrew, you can't do that! I'm supposed to be dead, they have crossed me out of the list of Asia Greens still alive…
- Who... "they"?
- You know very well… Iparkes.

Silence fell in. The others watched Song-Hong with intense curiosity. They knew he was always distraught at the idea of being caught and taken back by the Aliens who had airdropped him. He worked for them then, now he was the only survivor of his little gang and he wanted to live like Earthlings without fuss, and for a long time. A party celebrating him would not serve his purpose at all.

- I will disclose to you something that will reassure you. You are not a Green man, to-day you are an Earthling and that's what I'd like to celebrate, Andrew said.

He explained that, not like the others of his group airdropped at the same time, he had been able to survive the strange life in the bunker in Luang Prabang that had to be then. Already different from the others because of his higher army grade, people at the IIRE had ventured to do anything to save him. In order to maintain his level of energy vital for his survival they had taken him to the Vientiane hospital every month where he could follow with an experimental treatment of latest generation. Since his arrival in CHX he was followed by a professor of the School of Medecine in Velles. There he used to undergo transplant of human cells every week. The said professor was not sure of anything. Highly contested by his peers he went on relentlessly giving a chance to Song-Hong for a normal life. He knew his story and his inborn high physical capacity for survival. His reputation was at stake, his career, Song-hong's life, everything.

- Professor Sunflower has assured me… Andrew commented.
- Ha! ha! ha! everyone went off, is it his real name?
- No, of course, I call him like that not to disclose his real identity? In any case he works with a team on this project… As I was saying he assured me that from today's results Song-Hong is a full Earthling undetectable by Aliens.
- What about my skin? You can see I'm still green! Song-Hong cried out.
- Sure but your skin color is, let's say, ornament. Your DNA now is one hundred per cent that of an Earthling.

Song-Hong did not know what to say anymore. The audience applauded.

- Our big party, Sylvaine concluded, is for next week! Let me have the list of your guests as soon as possible. Good night everyone!

°°°   °°°   °°°

In the little flat in the low-town in Pit-Etrechet, when Weven had shut the door behind him when he left, Ninon who had remained seated threw her head back and started crying heavily. It was just like Andrew had said, she was elsewhere in her head. She missed everything. She missed Jaraye a little more everyday, the sound of his voice, his presence, his magnificent air of authority. Why did she follow Weven on that fatal day when they ran to the launching space of the Asia Greens? why? Thinking of the baby she had given birth to just then, she cried renewed sobs. This child from Jaraye, she had hardly got a glimpse of him, dripping with her own blood, held head down by an Alefi woman who had whispered in a smile: "a good looking boy, Princess!" She had slept after that. All she remembered is running pulling Souvana by the arm to find herself in a hospital in Laos.

She probed her memory, saw herself welcoming Philibert and Tara disguised as for a fancy dress party, Jaraye coming to get Souvana, her cousin leaving before they had time to chat, leaving where to? It seems that very moment was when she started getting scared, when Weven announced that Philibert was leaving for a far-away scientific mission from where he might never come back. She had not hesitated a few days after that when Weven told her she would have to follow him straight after her delivery. And Tara? She had hardly known her, had met her once or twice at the Merigny's in CHX. She seemed quite friendly, rather simple minded. How come she had been pregnant from her cousin? a real riddle. She was dead now. Tara's baby was here now right in front of her playing on the carpet with her own elder son. Yes, she did have another son. Yes, she wanted to go home and hold her second son in her arms. She would find a way. She would find one… A message went up on the wall of the little flat: "you are invited to a big celebration in honor of Song-Hong at the big house next Sunday between 10 and 20pm, full buffet, signed Sylvaine".

°°°   °°°   °°°

Weven had gone to JM's office without an appointment. At Pit-Baron in the low-town reigned the usual exciting atmosphere of a big city. You never thought you were 500m below the ground, the light being the same as on surface from a million tiny mirrors reflecting and amplifying the light outside. When the sky was grey outside, it was grey in the low-town too. Weven hanging around some shops thought he had to buy a few things for Tarabelle. Becoming an adoptive father for a Green man was a real new event. He ended up in the street next to JM's office building for town planners.

- I would like to see Mr Tournon, he said at the desk, I am Weven de Nolec, he doesn't know me but you can say I am coming on behalf of Tara.
- Mr Tournon is not in CHX at the moment.
- When could I see him?
- He's on a mission for a project in Asia. He won't be back before the end of the year. 
- Ah!
- Would you like to meet one of his colleague?
- No, thank you so much. Good bye.

Wrong track, Weven thought laughing out loud on his own. He was finding the situation hilarious… a Green man, imperial aide-de-camp on a far fetched planet finding himself on the Blue planet in a city below the ground attempting to speak to an architect the lover of a Green woman having died giving birth to a mixed kid half Green half Earthling of which he was in charge. What the hell am I doing here? he thought, stopping short on his track and taking the path to Ninon's apartment in Pit-Etrechet.

- So? Ninon asked as soon as he crossed the door.
- We're on the wrong track. JM is in Asia and in any case… Are you alright, Ninon? he added seeing that she had been crying.

They sat on the small sofa side by side and Ninon mentioned her doubts and her plan to get back to Jaraye and to her life at the palace on Alef36. Weven was not surprised. He mentioned that he felt the same, he wanted to go back to his planet and forget their disastrous escape. It had been a mistake. He was bitterly sorry about it.

- Fine, I must go home to the inn at Pit-St-Maur. Today was my day off but I'm working all through the week, Sunday included. Can you look after Tarabelle? I'll pick her up on Sunday night.
- Sure… on Sunday there's a party at Antwahn's house to celebrate Song-Hong, you're surely going to get an invitation too.
- …to celebrate Song-Hong? Really!

They parted quite coldly but tied now by their common plan.


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