Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with uber qualities. The plot is layered with romance, political intrigue, sex, and violence. At times the drama can be intense. Enjoy. Once completed I hope to find a publisher. I appreciate comments good and bad, especially if they are constructive.
Chapter 6: The Symphony
A polite, subdued applause and a bright circle
of light greeted Dr. Miranda as he strolled to the podium. Rubbing her hands
together, Hayley lost sight of him in the enormous glare of the spot. Her knees
wobbled like two over-cooked noodles. Her heart pounded. The rumblings of timpani
resonated within her bowels. Her hands shook and a clammy sweat covered her
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome you to the sixth in this year's series of Professor Book Talks."
Lightheaded, Hayley thought she might hyperventilate. What if I faint? How embarrassing! She fought the panic welling up inside.
"So I present the successor to the mantel worn so well by her beloved grandmother, the late Dr. Hayley Karolek. Ladies and gentlemen, the author of the critically acclaimed Where No Man Has Gone Before, Dr. Hayley Genetti."
The dean extended his hand.
The audience applauded politely.
Hayley's afflictions immediately increased. The shaking, loss of breath, wobbly legs, dizziness, and nausea, all plotted to humiliate her. Fighting the morbid anxiety and its accompanying hypochondria, Hayley took a deep breath and stepped through the opening. A spotlight caught her face. For a moment, it blinded her. In the bright beam, she felt naked, on display. Forcing herself to proceed, she could see the dean's stocky outline in the light's aura. He was surreal, almost ghostly. She extended her hand. Likewise, he reached out, and taking it, gave her a genteel welcome.
Going to the podium, Hayley took the wand from its holder and reactivated the VAS display. The first of her notes immediately appeared on the podium's idiot screen and the yellowish hue on the display screen hanging over her left shoulder blipped.
Hayley looked down to avoid the blinding spotlight and took a deep breath. Closing her eyes, she exhaled. She read the monitor on the podium's idiot screen. Hello and welcome, Hayley recognized the notes to her introduction. Painstakingly crafted and scrutinized since Miranda had first convinced her that she should deliver a book talk; the speech was some of her best work, or so she had believed. Now, she wasn't sure. She wanted to beg the audience's pardon and ask them to resume their normal Saturday afternoon activities. She had neglected to prepare. The words on the screen were not her own. No, not her own. They looked foreign.
"Hello and welcome," she spoke. A shock. She had actually opened her lips and spoke. Hello and welcome. Three simple words. Okay, ask for forgiveness and run.
Hayley looked ahead into the powerful spot. Blinded, she could see nothing. Squinting a little, she could detect the outlined silhouettes seated in the first two rows. Actually, the first three rows. The first row was empty.
The outlined forms in the second row gave her pause. Her family she guessed. Who else would want to sit that close? Perhaps they were the only ones present, she thought.
She remembered the applause. Polite, it had, nonetheless, had volume. How many pairs of eyes were watching her? She didn't know.
She continued on, "I'm Dr. Hayley Genetti." That was smart. Dr. Miranda had already told the audience her name. She plowed on. "˜And you heard correctly. The book that I have been asked to discuss this afternoon is Where No Man Has Gone Before. If you thought that this might be one of those Star Trek-Science Fiction confabs that were so popular two hundred years ago, I'm sorry to say you are mistaken. I understand the Martian Science Fiction Guild will be holding their convention next week, or perhaps, it was next month˜I wish I could remember. You know, I've always had such a bad memory for dates."
She allowed a well-rehearsed grin to slip. Carol had suggested she start with a joke, perhaps one of her awful puns. Hayley had debated. Would a pun be appropriate? There! She had done it. Hayley grimaced and shrugged, almost apologetically. Surprisingly, she heard a light smattering of chuckles. Probably some of her students she guessed. Not all of them of course. Carol was busting their butts instead of standing in the wing. Damn you Carol. Tanner, next time keep your mouth shut. No orders. No nothing. Still, others from her classes had read the notices. They were there, somewhere in the audience. They would understand. They were use to her style and had probably expected at least one poorly phrased pun.
"But this is no convention and definitely not a discourse on fiction, science or otherwise." With the transitional bridge completed, she glanced down at the monitor.
She found her place. "When Dr. Miranda," she gestured to where the pudgy dean had said he would sit, "asked if I would deliver a talk on Where No Man Has Gone Before, I was hesitant. As a native Martian, I have had the pleasure of sitting in the seats you now occupy many, many times and I wondered what I would have to offer."
Hayley forced her eyes away from the prompter and into the light of the blinding nova. She released her grip on the podium's edge.
"I am honored Dr. Miranda asked me to share with you a theory I call the Law of Mobility. An extension on the fundamentals found in Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis of 1890, the Law of Mobility attempts to define mankind's galactic destiny; that is our place˜mankind's role˜not only on Earth, but on the moon, Mars, throughout this solar system, and consequently within the galaxy and beyond. Over the years, as I collected and synthesized the volumes of data required in the proof, and in light of recent discussions that have begun to dominate the political arena, I have come to recognize the importance of presenting a logical sequencing and justification for the current policies of the United Galactic Confederation."
She paused, half-expecting to hear the uncomfortable rustle of seats or the nervous clearing of throats. Instead, only silence greeted her and the soft shimmer of what she guessed were eyes.
"The Law of Mobility, simply defined, says that: one: humans are innate transitory creatures who have a genetic predisposition to explore; and two, that our current age of discovery, our desire to catalogue and move out into the stars, is an extension of forces that have been at work since the beginning of history.
She pressed the video display button on the wand. Immediately a brilliant shot of the African continent taken from space filled the expanse of the stage. She glanced over her shoulder. The luminescent Earth, reflecting the startling blues of the expansive Indian and Atlantic oceans and the wisps of clouds, looked like a jewel against the black of the velvety night sky of space. "To understand the Law of Mobility, we need to take a journey, a journey back in time to the beginning." The screen changed into a series dissolves bringing the audience from the generic shot of the Earth to Africa, to Eastern Africa and the Red Sea, to the arid hills Oldivai Gorge, and the preserves of once expansive grasslands, the final a computer simulation she had discovered in the archives replicating the appearance, gait, and lifestyleof humankind's earliest ancestors.
"From the earliest hominids. Humankind has been on the move. First from the trees, in search of sustenance, they ranged over the extensive, expanding grasslands in search of water and food. Thus began man's first journey˜from the trees to the grasslands. For the next two thousand millennia, our proto-human forebears would continue to flourish and evolve on those plains, but they did not remain sedentary. Instead, they and their human descendants became great wanderers˜from Africa to Eurasia, and then eventually, during the last great ice age, across the land bridges to Australia and the Americas."
As Hayley explored the most recent statistical studies on early human migration patterns and reviewed the maps that went with each new revelation, the audience became less evident. Caught up in her own fascination with the data and the insights they provided, she wove the great stories only her encyclopedic mind could.
"Just as the evolutionary process gave humankind its current physical shape and intelligence, so it also gave us our basic psychology, a rudimentary desire and need to never remain static. Indeed, humankind seems to possess a nature that is transient, if not transitory. Whether it be nomads following game and seasonal crops, or the desire for precious metals and resources, trading outlets, or outright domination, humans seem to have a pressing need to move and expand."
The spot followed Hayley as she crossed the stage. Her voice echoed from the auditoriums digital speakers. Low, not quite an alto in timbre, she noticed an uncharacteristic authoritative quality in her soft delivery. Was this how she sounded in the classroom?
Except for one loud percussive sneeze and a couple of people clearing their throats with brief, shy coughs, the audience was quiet; and Hayley hoped, attentive. Looking out, she saw the owl-like reflection of eyes. At least some had not fallen asleep, and as she progressed in her narrative describing the great migratory epochs in Earth's history, she noticed the eyes followed as she retraced her route across the stage and with the ease of a magician teased her story.
"With changes in technology, the evolution of new economic and politic systems, especially the development of the European nation-states and mercantilism, this mobile tendency, for better or for worse, took on global proportions. The new mobility began around 1000 AD, following the Carolingian Renaissance and the reign of Charlemagne. Now I don't mean we should overlook the achievements and scientific advancement of those empires and civilizations outside of Western Europe. The Islamic empires of Africa and the Middle East created an impressive library of knowledge in the areas of science, medicine, mathematics, and navigation. Besides these vast stores of information, the emerging European nation-states would also have to thank the Islamic nations and people for maintaining the various east-west trade routes. These, theEuropeans would rediscover once they awoke from their hibernation and began their scramble for the treasures that lay before them. Still, it is important to remember, it was the Europeans and the use of the knowledge they obtained from their Islamic neighbors during the Crusades that allowed them to sweep over the globe."
Hayley described the First Age of Exploration, a name given to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by twenty-first and then again by twenty-third century historians, and its parallels to the present age.
"At this point I do not want to debate the ramifications and ethics of western domination. Instead, I prefer to discuss the legitimacy of the migratory nature that preceded these rapid deployments˜and I say rapid in lieu of the more leisurely way humankind had originally populated the planet. In contrast to the thousands, if not millions, of years it took for humanity to sweep over the globe, it would take just under four hundred years for Europeans and their western philosophical ideas to do the same.
"So what does that have to do with us or the current migration of humans into our solar system, and beyond? I say that the past is immutably linked to the present and, therefore, our future. Human nature, which began to develop when the first proto-humans left the safety of their trees and walked upright across the savannas of Africa, an event repeated figuratively over and over in history, is in need of finding satisfaction and fruition. Humankind's destiny is a transient one. We are creatures that must keep moving, growing, learning, and achieving. This is the psychological and philosophical root of humanity's existence. So naturally, as Earth's population grew, it was not unthinkable that humans would gaze their eyes upward to the stars and ponder: Why not?
"Some historians have labeled the early explorations of space the Second Age of Exploration." Hayley described the more famous and lesser- known highlights of the twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-second century ventures into space, linking each: First Sputnik, Explorer, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, the missions to Mars, Europa, Titan, and Io, and the establishment of the first colonies. Quickly, her tale progressed to the present time.
"Just as with the First Age of Exploration, the beginnings of this, the Second Age of Exploration, has taken a long time in coming. Though the early manned space flights came at a furious pace in the 1960s and the United States triumphantly sent several manned missions to the moon and the former Soviet Union maintained a series of space stations, the successes thereafter came at an increasingly slower rate. I certainly would have shared the frustrations of many living in the closing decades of the twentieth century. In Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, humans had already come to occupy the moon and had prepared for the first manned expedition to Jupiter. The famed Star Trek series, which I honored with my book's title, depicted a federation of planets engaged in the peaceful exploration of the galaxy by the twenty-second century. Yet, obviously, here we are, the twnty-third century.
"The year is 2254 and the dreams of these literary visionaries has not yet been fully realized though many of the technologies advanced by these futurists have existed for more than a century. Why so slow? The lack of sound fiscal planning, chaos, fractionalization, the bastardization of the educational system by politicians, fundamentalists, Luddites, and business interests, who knew little about cognitive processes and successful teaching practices and only sought their own political and economic considerations; the endless cut backs in funding, political squabbles, reactionary thinking dominated by those with parochial visions, and a host of other roadblocks put a damper on those enthusiasts who looked forward to the stars.
"So instead of bases on the moon and space stations circling the Earth in 2001, the Earth bound saw only NASA Space Shuttle missions, the occasional interplanetary probe, unmanned of course, and continued debates and squabbles about costs, designs, and need. It wouldn't be until the United States, Russia, the EEC, and Japan came together in the 1990s that the first international spacestation finally orbited the Earth. It wasn't until 2051, before a consortium of countries working through the United Nations formed the United Space Exploration and Colonization Cooperative for the purpose of establishing a lunar colony, Tranquility City. Another decade passed before the monetary and political might of the United Mining Consortium and other conglomerates with extraterrestrial visions sent adventurers, including my descendants, Carl Genetti on my father's side and Colonel Armstrong Karolek, to physically explore the mysteries of Mars's rich geologicl bounty and establish of a colony.
"I pity Ray Bradbury, Ben Bova, Carl Sagan, Kim Stanley Robinson, Myra Novachek, Miguel Rodriguez, Scott Craemer, Patricia Grand, Robert Rojakowski, and the other Martian visionaries. They were long dead, and though the technology existed when they walked the Earth and gazed upward, they never saw their dreams of a Martian colony come to fruition. Instead, they watched helplessly as the Terran power structures killed their dreams.
"What would have happened if Marco Polo had been too frightened to travel the unknown trails to China or if Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal had kept his fleet home and refused to fund the exploration of the African coast, or if Columbus had decided the Atlantic Ocean was filled with monsters or the world flat? What if the European monarchs had refused to back the explorers of the First Age of Discovery? What if John F. Kennedy had refused to chase the Soviet Union's lead into space? Where was the courage and vision of Earth's Lost Generation of Space Exploration? What took the leaders of our great-great-
Hayley extended her hands, and like a politician in search of votes, an action she had seen her mother, sister, and brother-in-law perform countless numbers times, she paused. It was then, a thunderous ovation erupted, and the audience came to its feet.
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