To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.
The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at
Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.
These are the events as we know them.
We recorded them factually and objectively.
And now we report them to you.
They ate late in an almost empty dining room. The click, click of cutlery against bone china seemed to echo about the room. Tap was annoyed to note that the silence was far more deafening than Courtney's continual banter. "You will tell me please what you learned," Tap requested politely, when she could no longer stand the silence.
"I thought my lack of advanced education and dull intellect made my understanding of the issues of little importance," came the quiet but acidic response.
Tap blinked. Then blinked again as she considered the implication of what Courtney had said. "You feel that by giving you an honest assessment I have insulted you? Would it have been less insulting if I patronized you?"
Courtney put her utensils down with some force and looked at Tap with annoyance. "No it would not. But I have been working my tail off to absorb all the information that you have required of me and I feel I have done a pretty good job of it. So I resent being dismissed as lacking knowledge and intellect."
"Did you fully understand the economic issues discussed today?" Tap asked.
"Of course not!" Courtney barked in annoyance, folding her napkin and dropping it on the table.
"You do not want dessert?" Tap asked in surprise.
"You always have dessert," her boss stated, lifting her hand slightly to get the attention of the waiter. In rapid Italian she explained to him what she wanted and with a nod he left.
"I have been pleased by your efforts, Courtney Hunter. There is no shame in reaching limits. If you will please indulge me, I have asked the chef to prepare something special for us. There is a small library that is quite comfortable. I thought we could talk about what you heard today while we have a desert," Tap stated formally but with kindness, as she leaned back in her seat and met her trainee's eyes.
"You never have desert," Courtney stated, meeting those strange aqua eyes without blinking.
Tap smiled softly. "Court, I am trying to meet you half way. You will please indulge me and not be so difficult."
"Is that your way of apologizing?" the librarian asked.
"Apologizing? I never apologize. I do as I wish. That is my right."
Courtney bit her tongue so that the sharp retort would not escape. She was here in Rome at Tap's expense and as arrogant as Tap's conversation had been it would not do to criticize...at least not at this point. Courtney was experiencing a growing feeling of anxiety that Tap might be far more powerful and dangerous an individual than she had realized. Some very powerful and famous people today had shown great respect towards her boss that came dangerously close in its appearance to fear.
A heavy silence fell again. Tap frowned and looked at Court, her eyes reflecting her frustration and annoyance. Court sat stone faced and angry, her eyes fixed on a spot over Tap's left shoulder. "We will go to the library now and have the dessert I have ordered and you will tell me what you have learned," Tap stated and stood.
Court followed her out of the dining room pulling faces at Tap's back. Such acts, although considered immature, are often committed to relieve emotional tension.
The library, however, did have a mellowing effect the ragged emotions of both women. It was small and intimate and a fire crackled in the hearth. Dessert too pleased both of them. It was a dish of bite sized balls of Italian ice cream served on a silver, pedestal tray filled with dried ice that poured trails of mist onto the table. Each ball of ice cream was dusted with a different kind of ground nut. Inside was fresh fruit ice cream and in the centre a piece of the fruit, each marinated in a different liqueur.
The tension between them relaxed and Court hesitantly gave a summary of what she had learned. "I'm afraid that the maths left me well behind but as I understand it the general gist of the meeting was that the world is facing an economic crisis. Certainly, in our life time significant raw materials such as oil, gas, and copper will run out. Britain, the US and Canada have already peaked in their oil reserves."
"Meaning?" Tap asked, as she helped herself to another ice cream ball.
"We have essentially tapped all the oil that there is and we are now in the process of using it up at an alarming rate. In fact, old coal driven generators, once closed in Europe and North America as an air pollution hazard, are being reopened to provide a reliable, cheaper, domestic power source."
Courtney frowned and looked moodily at the fire. Tap said nothing, waiting for her trainee to continue. "There were other elements that worried me more. The fact that only twenty per cent of the world's population, primarily Europeans, control eighty per cent of the world's wealth is very distressing. Recent growth in terrorism seems to have a direct link to the hopelessness and poverty of some nations. As resources and opportunity run out, 'have not' countries are becoming increasingly scornful of the 'have' countries."
Tap nodded, pleased that Courtney was beginning to put her various studies together. "Earth is a beautiful paradise floating in a vast cold universe. Yet it bleeds itself to death," Tap observed. "It is like a rose, so very beautiful and yet it fades so quickly when picked. Perhaps that is part of its romance, that it can last for only a brief time."
Courtney looked up into Tap's eyes with interest. She had not heard Tap talk with such passion before. Tap was all about logic and reason not passion. "Do not give up on our world, Tap. We might be seriously wounded but we are an iron rose bleeding. Humans are very resourceful and our will to survive is iron strong."
Tap looked with curious eyes at the woman whom she had brought into her system. Certainly, Courtney Hunter had displayed that sort of iron will. It was what had attracted Tap to her. "Tell me then, Courtney, what makes this planet bleed?"
"So many things," Courtney sighed. "An increase in terrorism, famine, war, are all around the corner as the world fights over its dwindling resources. The gap between those countries in the microchip age and those in the medieval age continues to widen. United Nations' studies indicate that poverty and ignorance breed violence, oppression, and disease. Terrorism, the rise of fanatical leadership that gives false hope to the disenfranchised, and the rapid spread of new diseases like AIDS, hepatitis C, and new TB strains, are all examples of this."
Tap, who had been listening with one ear as she watched the fire, looked up in surprise when she heard the catch in Courtney's throat. "Is there something wrong?"
"Tap!" Courtney snapped, getting to her feet and pacing about in the small room. " Everything is wrong. Don't you see how serious a situation we are facing?"
"Yes. I strive, and so must you, to remain objective," Tap observed, annoyed by Courtney's rudeness in pacing about in front of her. It lacked respect. "Please sit down and continue."
With eyes blazing, Courtney sat and seeing that Tap was waiting for her to continue, she gritted her teeth and tried to appear objective. "Economically competitive nations are certainly preparing a new generation in terms of education and focus to win the economic wars ahead but that might not be enough. The looming population crisis the world is facing, the threat of global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer, rising sea levels and the displacement of millions of people as a result are all adding to the potential for a major world crisis twenty or so years down the road."
Tap nodded. "Any other factors?"
"Yes, many. The destruction of farmland, the overuse and misuse of fresh water supplies, the reduced genetic pool in hybrid plants, there are problems rising on so many fronts." Courtney sighed, feeling a real depression starting to fall over her.
"We will survive and come out of this turbulent time better and stronger,"Courtney said with feeling, and felt the confidence of her statement renew her hope.
"You are a born optimist, Courtney Hunter," Tap smiled. Courtney had chosen not to sit in the wing chair opposite Tap but to curl up on the rug near the fire. The firelight highlighted the gold of her hair and bathed her form in its soft glow.
"And you, Tap, what are your conclusions?"
"I too believe in the iron rose," Tap murmured, as she slipped off her chair and knelt beside her trainee. "I have bet my existence on it." Very slowly, she bent forward and placed her lips against Courtney's. Courtney hesitated only a second and then responded. When their lips finally parted, Courtney found herself wrapped in Tap's arms. It was a wonderful feeling.
Tap's body was hard and lean and ever so warm. Courtney felt right there.
Neither one of them spoke for a very long time. To do so would be to give up the moment and neither one of them wanted to do that. It was finally Courtney who pulled back slightly to look into Tap's remarkable eyes. "I don't think we are being objective," she smiled. There was no response. Tap seemed almost in shock. "Tap are you okay?"
Tap blinked then seemed to focus herself. "Yes, yes fine. I had no idea...that was a very powerful experience."
"You have never kissed a woman before?" Courtney asked.
"No, no," Tap responded, reluctant to let go of the woman she held in her arms.
Courtney seemed to sense her need. Instead of continuing to pull away, she leaned her head on Tap's shoulder and nuzzled her neck with her lips.
"You must stop this," Tap groaned, but making no effort to push Courtney away. It was Courtney again who decided that this could not go any further and slowly eased back. If Tap had not had any experience with a woman then it wouldn't be right to go too far too quickly.
For a long time, Tap sat beside Courtney with worried eyes staring at the fire. Then she suddenly looked at Courtney. "I have decided that I will date you," she announced, " and we will see were this physical attraction goes."
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