Evacuation of Haifa, February 7th 2166.
Somewhere in Israel I got lost, my soul was as pierced as that battered montgolfière with which I had just landed at the airport that once was a source of wealth for this country which no longer will exist. I sat in the corner of the steps used by the aircraft’s crew. While I was perusing how Black Berets were helping the civilians to get off the montgolfière that were kissing the concrete ground and giving thanks to the Lord for the second chance they had, a girl of about four or five years slipped from her mother’s hands and came towards me.
“Eloïse, come here please, do not bother this man!” exclaimed the girl’s mother, while she gave me her teddy.
“Why are you crying?” Her childish voice denoted a strong Hebrew accent.
“I don’t cry, little bit, my eyes sting me because of a cold. It’s a very nice bear, but if it stays with me will be very afraid.”
“The next times you fly your plane ask for my dad, mum told me that he is in sky.”
“I will, squirt.” I returned her the bear while I was trying to restrain my tears which were sliding down my cheeks. “And now go with your mom, you are making her suffer.”
“God bless you, Sir.” Eloise’s mother blurted. “You saved our lives.”
“Your daughter is an angel from heaven, take much care of her.” After saying this I entered the montgolfière and cried like I had not done since Mom died.
After I calmed down I entered the aircraft again, there was nobody. Following the manual of the Navy I was waiting beside the aircraft until I got someone to take care of it and relieved me of the surveillance. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for long, after a few minutes a Jeep arrived with a driver and a young Air Force captain. She was a woman; she looked strong and delicate at the same time, got out and came towards me, she saluted me and I replied.
“Yes, I am.”
“Let me be the first to congratulate you.” She shook my hand “Your prowess has been televised on all channels of the free world.”
“Televised? Congratulate me? I do not understand Captain, we have failed, and we’ve lost the war. We are fleeing from this land like rats while civilians are exterminated throughout Israel.”
“Even so, CNN has released images of your reaction against the attack of enemy fighters; millions of people have seen how you saved hundreds of civilians from a certain death. The President wants to congratulate you personally.”
“The President? Will the President resurrect my friend and the thousand people who died into the montgolfière?”
“I’m sorry Lieutenant, I also feel your grief, but you have to understand that I only follow orders.”
“Excuse me, Captain, you’re not to blame. But I cannot leave until the Navy pick up my aircraft.”
“Your aircraft will be destroyed; the Air Force will take over the airport until all personnel would be evacuated.”
“What about the civilians in Haifa?”
“We can do nothing for whom can’t reach the airport before the last helicopter takes off towards the carriers Iwo Jima” and Varna, at midnight.”
“I can fly a fighter to defend the airport.”
“I am sorry Lieutenant, you know the rules. You first have to pass a psychological test. Please pull into the Jeep, by the way I will heal the wound of your forehead.”
“Sure, come on.”
The Jeep came to a helicopter whose rotor was running making a deafening noise, captain gestured me to come in. I entered quickly inside of that plane; inside the cabin therewere many civilians, women and men of various ages. I knew this helicopter and his crew, they belonged to the “Iwo Jima”, I sat in one of the seats and buckled my seatbelt. In seconds the helicopter took off and gradually the airport was becoming small. The trip was short, we flew over the fleet that escorted two aircraft carriers protecting this corner of the Mediterranean Sea and in a few minutes the helicopter left us on the secondary runway of that floating city. While getting off thehelicopterI saw a groupof pilots whoprobablywent to theirfighters, and I recognized Soizick.
“Soizick!” I yelled.
“David!” She left the formation, ran to me and hugged me. “You’re alive! I was pretty worried; we have seen the images on CNN of a montgolfière exploding.”
“Marc has…?” I nodded, she hugged me tight and both broke to mourn” I’m so sorry, it hurts my heart, all three were a team. Your poor sister will have to raise her child alone.”
“Yes, nowjust are youand me… AndMichael.”
“Butthis does not change anything, David. I’ll leave him as soon as I come back from the defense of Haifa, as I promised in that square of Jerusalem. Wait a few hours my love. I love you.”
“Me too” I kissed her.
“Lieutenant Gonnet, please, you should get on your fighter, the squad has to take off immediately.” The notice of that sergeant interrupted our kiss.
“Come back in one piece.” I resisted leaving her hand. “I’ll tell to the Captain of this nutshell to marry us.”
“I’ll take your word for it…”
I watched how she went towards the Firecat fighters group, which was in the main runway; those planes had been configured to intercept enemy fighter-bombers which whipped Haifa Airport. At that moment, a sailor ushered me inside because it was forbidden for staff not directly related tooperationswere sauntering throughthe runway. Soizickparticipatedin a joint missionwith the Air Forceto defend theHaifa’sairport, last spotAtlanticbeforeour retreatat midnight, whenthe President would declare a unilateral ceasefire accepting the defeat.
I was in that carrier with nothing because my stuff were in Cyprus, from where took off the montgolfières of the Navy. Actually, I had no idea to whom I had to contact to get clothes, food and a bed to sleep. My flexiscreen was broken because of one of the blows that I got while the montgolfière was receiving impacts everywhere; I was alone among a crew of eighteen thousand people, so I decided to go to the canteen of the officers. Upon entering that bar full of pilots I received an unexpected ovation, about twenty known faces were smiling while they crumbled into applause towards me, I was stunned, uncomfortable with myself, I did not deserve it… I had failed to save my brother-in-law and friend.
“Lieutenant Lavall, let me to introduce myself, Captain David Ignatieff. I’m in charge of this ship.” I squared.
“RestLieutenant, I’m the one who should square.” He shook my hand. “I want toshake hands with thebravestpilotI’ve ever met.”
“SorrySir, the bravest one pilotedthe aircraftthat exploded in front of me.”
“You must believe me if I tell you that modesty is not a too useful virtuein our profession, you’re confused right now. Anyway, I think you were informed that President wants to see you.”
“Yes Sir, but I must return to Cyprus to get my stuff and tell my family that my sister’s husband died on service.”
“Do not suffer Lieutenant, Navy has personnel to do these things, now a psychologist should be knocking on the door of the house of your sister; as soon as he believes it is the right time to talk to your family, he will contact you.”
“My flexiscreen is broken, I’m isolated.”
“You can call your sister with your own cell card. Your stuff are already in the cabin we have assigned you, you’ll share it with a former colleague of you in the Squadron Albatross. A sailor will accompany you as soon as you take the cup that you’ve worth.” That man filled two glasses with a liquid that looked like whiskey.
“Roger Sir, this toast is for you and to those who accompany me in this room.” I raised my glass. “And for those who are gone.”
“For those who are gone!” All the people who were in the canteen exclaimed.
“I want to propose a toast too.” The captain intervened. “For the guy worthy of the Iron Cross!”
“Excuse me, I see that nobody has reported you that, that is why the President wants to see you. You and your family will be taken to Brussels for state funerals and the granting of awards.”
“But I do not deserve the Iron Cross, I fought for my survival.”
“And for the people that you were carrying in that montgolfière, your audacity saved their lives.”
“Roger Sir.” I replied without much enthusiasm.
Slowly I was getting all possible feelings, sadness, guilt, anxiety… I did not know what the hell I would say to Gisela. Moreover, how would glare down Michael Lagarde when he finds out that Soizick left him for me? All I had inside me mixed and took a strange color.
After three drinks, I was still as just as emotionally disturbed but somewhat drunk, alcohol had not done any of my demons disappear. After the fourth cup Captain Ignatieff had already considered that I had the dose to cure my wound and signaled a sailor to take me to my cabin. The room in which this man got me was a small cabin with two beds separated by their lockers and a small desk table next to the door; Iinstantly recognized the pictures that were on that table, I was located in the same stateroom that Michael Lagarde…I felt embarrassed; as soon as Soizick arrived I would ask for a transfer to another cabin, which I was in danger to be killed by him while I were sleeping. I decided not to keep the backpack stuff they had left on my bed, I grabbed only my cell card and went into the corridor. The first thought as soon as I had that little device in my hands was to call Gisela; it was my duty as a brother.
“Hello.” Said a strange voice of someone who was not family, who picked the call did not connect the video.
“Who do I speak? I’m calling the home of my father and my sister.”
“Lieutenant Lavall, I’m sorry, I’m a psychologist of the Navy; right now you cannot talk to anyone of your family until I have finished my evaluation.”
“Can’t I talk with my sister?”
“She is here by my side but I do not consider it appropriate to talk to you until after a reasonable time. I personally will contact you in the right moment…” Without another word, the person hung up. I was faced idiot while I was walking by the rows of the carrier.
I heard over the loudspeaker that the survivors of the squadron Harpoon were about to land on the main runway,which is why I went to the bridge. Using my new hero status, I got into the bridge; the displaying of ‘Lt. D. Lavall’ from my uniform was enough to cross the safety cord. Captain Ignatieff stared out the window the landings of the squadron in which Soizick was flying.
“It is terrible.” Commented the Captain. “Just three fighters of this squad have landed.”
“Only three, Sir?” I asked.
“Affirmative Lieutenant, do you have any interest in this squad?”
“A very special person flies in one of the fighters in this squad.”
“What’s her name?”
“Navy’s Lieutenant Soizick Gonnet, Sir.” I answered, praying within me that she were into one of the three fighters landed.
“Lieutenant Gonnet is Harpoon six. Second officer, what fighters have landed?”
“Harpoon nine, three and eleven.” At not hearing the number six I froze.
“Do you have more planes to land, Sir?” I asked terrified.
“Sorry, David, I know it’s terrible to lose two important people in your life the same day.”
“I was going to ask her to marry me as soon as she would have landed.” I replied to the captain, totally helpless.
“I do not know what to say, I cannot imagine how you feel now.”
“I could not imagine that I might feel like this myself, with all due respect, Sir, I’m leaving…”
“I think it’s not a good moment to stay alone, I cannot hold you on the bridge but I’d prefer to you stay in sight. I don’t want you to commit a blunder.”
“I’m sorry Sir, but you may understand that I need privacy to mourn my girlfriend and my brother in law.”
“Of course, but please do not do anything that has no cure.”
This was too much for me; I had lost Soizick and Marc the same day. I was alone and could not speak to my family. I was lost in the huge aircraft carrier ‘Iwo Jima’; I roamed for hours aimlessly until I got to the stern of the ship. There was nobody in that part of the carrier, and it was four in the morning and everyone but the guard duty was asleep, I had enough privacy to do it: from the pants holster I pulled my Glock nine millimeter, I sat in a square shape that made the deck in a corner next to overboard, I put the barrel at the base of my chin, my last thought before pulling the trigger was for Mom…
“Come on, shoot, what are you waiting for?” That voice from the darkness interrupted me, the speech sounded familiar to me.
“Leave me alone, it is the last thing I’ll ever do in my life.”
“You’ve always been a fucking coward.” Michael Lagarde emerged from the darkness, illuminated by the dim light of the deck lampposts. “The value lies in being man enough to face reality and not escaping from it.”
“Just leave me alone, you didn’t ever deserve Soizick.”
“Ah! What about you? Do you think I have not suffered because she loved both of us? Do you think I didn’t know she would leave me to go with you?”
“My life no longer makes sense.” I put the safety latch not to shoot accidentally. “What will I do now?”
“What if you avoid thinking she is dead?” Michael said. “No one has seen the body.”
“Are you a fool? If she had managed to jump she would have found a way to contact the carrier…”
“Something tells me that she is still alive.” Michael’s insistence was admirable. “If you don’t realize it perhaps you are who do not deserve her.”
“Maybe not Michael, good luck.”
“Give me the gun, I hate you but I cannot allow you to kill yourself.”
“And what if I don’t give it to you?”
“I shall take from you by force.”
“Will you also prevent me from throwing myself overboard?”
“I can call the Naval Police to stop you.”
“I do not believe that they would arrive on time to stop me.”
“So I’m asking you for the memory of the person who somehow united us.”
“Emotional blackmail? I should not kill myself because the person who separated me from Soizick is asking for it?”
“It was you who separated her from your side all these years, you’re a damn fool, so she was frightened, and you needpsychiatric help. She always loved you more but you made it very difficult for her.”
“Did she tell you this?”
“She has cried so many times for you that I hate you for all the pain you’ve caused her.”
“I love her…” I began to mourn; the guilt filled my whole being.
“Prove it and live for her.”
“I’m sorry, Soizick…I’ve failed you so much” I sat totally engrossed trying to evoke the happy moments, I did not realize that Michael had taken the gun away from me and left.
A week later, the funeral for all the victims of that last brutal battle in Israel took place. This cemetery of Brussels was crowded; the state funeral was a massive ceremony broadcasted on all the channels of the Republic. The state funeral was nothing but a pretentious farce with thousands of laid flowers on a monument with the names of people who had been killed in Israel’s campaign, made in haste and withdebatable criteria. That huge granite monolith included the engraved names of Marc and Soizick; they had also received the Purple Heart posthumously in the futile attempt to appease the families who had lost them.
Gisela was carrying a baby of seven months, my nephew called Marc like his father. I felt unable to console her because sadness also drowned me and poisoned my soul so that I wish I had pulled the trigger on that carrier. Then came the comedy of the medal, they hung on my neck that cross that reminded me of films about World War II where bad guys carried these medals, whoever decided to introduce the Iron Cross as the highest award of the Atlantic Armed Forces had an awful idea.
Days passed and things did not improve, officially I was on common disease leave, but in fact the psychiatrist had diagnosed that I had PTSD, which disallowed me to flyairplanes and bear guns. Despite having to raise a baby, Gisela went ahead much better than me; and as soon as we came back to Barcelona she continued her practices of medicine at the Hospital del Mar; it was my sister who took care of me, which made me feel guilty and useless. The solution came from Dad, just a day before Easter he came home happy.
“David, I’ve found you a job.”
“A job? Where?” I answered surprised.
“What do you know about hypersonic aircraft?”
“They work more or less like the combat sliders we used on Mars; they are piloted using a stratospheric ballistic trajectory between two airports.”
“Well, in three days you have to turn up in Vientiane.”
“Where?” I replied.
“It is the capital of Laos, an airline where a friend works as a flight attendant has managed to introduce your file in their HR department and they accepted you.”
“When did you mean to tell me that you were looking for a job to me behind my back?”
“Don’t you want to work?”
“Of course, but according to the doctor I’m not healthy enough to fly.”
“Your military file does not say that, as courtesy of the High Admiralty.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Tomorrow morning I’ll take you to the airport of El Prat and my friend will accompany you to Vientiane. The travel costs are in charge of Lao Airlines.”
“And this friend…” I smiled.
“What else would I? She is your age; I know her about things of the union…”
The next day Dad and Gisela accompanied me to the airport, previously she had left the little Marc in the kindergarden. Upon entering the terminal, a pretty young Asian was waiting for us, my father made the introductions:
“Keo, this is my son David and she is my daughter Gisela.”
“Keo?” Gisela asked.
“Actually it’s Keosaychay, but to Westerners to pronounce my name is complicated, especially for your father.” After saying that she turned his gaze to me. “David, please be brief, we must check your bags and ship in less than ten minutes.”
I hugged Gisela strongly, I hated to leave her alone in those circumstances and I could not help falling tears with emotion.
“Are you sure that you’re okay? I can still back out.” I said.
“No David, you must live your life. It will be good for you to disconnect from everything.”
“Take good care of the little Marc.”
“If not, what do remain me?”
The goodbye with Dad was very similar; I waswatchingthemgetting smaller while I was leaving in the company of that unknown woman. The plane took us to Frankfurt, then we picked up the luggage and headed to the terminal of hypersonic flight, four hours and we would be on the end of another continent… I said nothing during the entire journey; actually I did not know what to say, anyway this girl respected my silence without asking any questions. When we were twenty minutesto land I realized that I was a regrettable fellow traveler, so I tried to fix it in the best way possible:
“I’m sorry Keo, I don’t want you think I’m ungrateful.”
“Don’t worry, I understand your condition, when we get to my house we will start a therapy.”
“A therapy? My father did not tell me anything.”
“Do you think you will pass the test of the company in this spirit? I have to prepare you to pass the test.”
“Will I be cured in one day?”
“No, I only will make they believe that you have no mental problems.”
“Are you a psychiatrist or something like this?”
“I am many things; you’ll realize over time, your father would not have thought of me if I were a mere hostess…”
When we left the airport, I found myself in a strangely modern city, it was a city like Barcelona and totally different at the same time. We took a cab, the driver gaped a moment by the spectacular beauty of my escort, a beauty that I had ignored until then. While that vehicle was on the highway leading to Vientiane, I too was enthralled by this beautiful Asian, with her endless eyelashes and hair black as night; when she realized I looked her, she felt uncomfortable.
“Apart from looking at me, you could talk a little bit about yourself.”
“I apologize, there is nothing dirty in my eyes, just for a moment I was engrossed with your beauty.”
“Everything is an illusion, a house may have a pretty facade but that does not mean it’s cozy. Maybe if I were uglier you would have talked to me instead of looking at me as if I were an object.”
“I apologize again; I will show you that I’m not this way.”
“I hope so…”
Finally, the taxi reached the city in few minutes and stopped at the gate of a huge skyscraper, at whose entrance there was a sign hung where you could see a “Europe Tower” inscription, Keo paid the driver who gladly took our luggage from the trunk. The hall looked like a supermarket with a lot of counters with hundreds of different luxury brands, and we went through one of the elevators.
“Are you European?”
“No, but I spend a lot of time in Barcelona…our floor.”
We walked a few steps from the elevator until a door sensor detected Keo, then a voice asked for a biometric confirmation so this young woman put her face in front a scanner glass, once done this the door was unlocked…
Ramallah, June 22nd 2166. Story by Soizick Gonnet.
Involuntarily and unknowingly, I became a bargaining chip between two countries in conflict because of a negotiation between the government of the Atlantic Republic and the tyrannical state led by terrorists. I had to live nearly for four months in captivity, where torture and rape suffered went to my particular box of horrors; this inner drama was so terrible that I could not ever explain. I felt dirty inside me, disgust and shame had penetrated to the farthest corners of my soul. Thank God that had finished when, miraculously, a UN delegation had managed to agree on a prisoner exchange between the Atlantic Republic and the Worldwide Caliphate, six Atlantic prisoners by fifty captive Caliphatians. But that day when they pushedme outof the room I was afraidthey were going tokill me.
In order to make it seemed that they had not done anything to me during my abduction; these savages forced me to bathe in the presence of three men with guns pointing at me and then forced me to wear a hiyab. I had not many marks on my body but I’ll never forget those horrors during my captivity in that hole, and even less the stinking breath of one of the captors who came to visit me regularly to do more than bring me food.
Before getting on that rickety truck, they put me a dark dirty bandage on eyes, just like three soldiers and two journalists who were in my same condition. The six hostages were women because the men who had been captured had been brutally murdered a few weeks ago by those criminals who had not respected any of the conventions which protected prisoners of war.
It took long on bumpy roads until the truck stopped and our captors made us go down to the asphalt. Then I noticed the unmistakable smell of jet fuel, instantly I figured we were in an airport or an aerodrome. We walked a few hundred yards without seeing anything but the dirty bandage that covered our eyes. I calculated that had walked about half a kilometre when militants unleashed us while they regaled us with the last shouts and shoves, I even received a painful blow on the shoulder, I could finally take off my blindfold and I looked around. The sky began to darken, I knew the place, without any doubt it was Ramallah Airport and these men were leading us towards a medium-sized white jet that was in the middle of the runway. Fifty dirty men on their yellowish djellabas got off the airplane, shouted and hugged our captors, while from the same plane a man beckoned us and was yelling us.
“Come quickly before they change their mind.” The man used his hands as a megaphone with the intention that we heard him better. Excited, we ran to the aircraft despite the discomfort of the hiyab, to freedom, among tears and cries of joy. The nightmare was over.
“Please get yourself at home, there is plenty of room but it stinks, our apologies for the lack of hygiene of passengers just landed.” A captain of the peacekeepers said. “As soon as the plane takes off Lieutenant Vahi will take note of your data.”
Ten minutes passed or maybe more, that in a situation situation when you try to escape from Hell it becomes an eternity. Finally that plane started running down the runway and took flight leaving eventually that hostile land, I began to mourn with emotion. Besides the captain and lieutenant, there were a dozen heavily armed soldiers; you could tell that the men for whom we had been exchanged commissioned by United Nations were not angels. The lieutenant grabbed her flexiscreen and was asking tenderly person by person, things got slow because each of the women wanted to know details of that rescue and how they could contact their families. I was assigned the penultimate, in spite of the lieutenant was a female unattractive and unfeminine (it’s impossible to find ugly the first person who treats you gently after months of horror), she hadthat motherly sweetness that made me feel relaxed, protected, at home…
“Can you tell me your name please?”
“Lieutenant of Ship Soizick Gonnet, my plane was shot down in Haifa in February.”
“It can’t be possible, you’re dead.”
“What do you say?”
“Sorry, I meant that the database reports you are dead, ma’am.”
“I understand it; my flexiscreen was destroyed by jumping in parachute. Shall I contact my family or a companion of my unit?”
“Tell me the name and I’ll check.”
“DavidLavall, Lieutenant of Ship”
“Here it is. He was awarded with the Iron Cross for the famous rescue of Tel Aviv. He is on leave on own affairs, is missing since April.”
“How can someone like him be missing?”
“Whoever does not want to be found disconnects his cell card and you lose track. Do you want to contact someone else?”
“Michael Lagarde, he is also Lieutenant of Ship.”
“Yes, yes he is available. Shall I call?”
The ring tone rang during never ending seconds, anxiety made me mourn; perhaps those months may be erased like if nothing happened. I heard his voice:
“Michael, it’s me.” The other side remained silent.
“Michael? I’m alive!” I insisted seeking his reaction.
“Soizick, my love, where are you? It’s a miracle; something told me that you could not have died.”
“I’m flying to Europe from Haifa; my kidnappers have released me…”
After a fewdaysI went to my parents’, in my belovedSaint-Malo, not without havingpassed firstlya psychological examand other medical, I wascertified thatnone ofthosepigshad infectedmeanyvenerealdiseasebutthey had tointerrupta pregnancyof three weeks that I did not evenhad guessed, it had been a situationwhereI did not worrytoo much if it menstruation was comingor not. Seeing me,mom made metake a showerandsent me to bed, despite myprotests she sat ona chairnext to meuntil I fell asleep. The next day I was asked if I was okay, I had to liebecause I could notlet my parentsknew the gory detailsofmy kidnapping. I felt guilty but I didn’t know why, maybe I had encouragedin some waytomy captorstoabuse me, but I wasconvinced thatI had notdone itbecause I offeredresistance showing clearly that it was totally against my will.
Throughout the week after my arrival, my mother continued treating me like a little girl, she chose the clothes I had to put on, she brushed my hair, and she prepared my favorite dishes. The case of Dad was even worse; when he came back from work he locked himself in the room and came out to dinner with tearful eyes. That situation was totally unsustainable, so after ten days since my arrival I took advantage of dinner time to talk openly:
“You know that you are what I love most in this world?”
“Of course.” My mother said. “And you are the apple of our eyes.”
“So are not you glad I’m back?”
“We are very happy to have you with us.” Replied my father “But…”
“We realized that one day we’ll lose you forever.” My mother said. “Heaven has wanted to bestow the grace to have you with us a little longer, but finally the fate will separate you from us.
“And why do you worry about the future? I want you to enjoy the present with me, and there is a person…”
“David?” My mother asked; she did not hide her predilection for him.
“No, Michael.” I saw the face of disappointment of my mother, who loved David as a son. “Sorry Mom; I love David, but he is not the man of my life.”
“I’m happy for you, honey.” My father said. “Michael is a good guy.”
“I want to ask him to marry me.”
A sweltering July day, the mayor of Saint-Malo married us both Michael and me in the presence of our closest relatives. I tried to contact David to come to our wedding, but his sister said he was living in Vientiane and to attend my wedding wasn’t a good idea, whatever happened had left him deeply disturbed, in some way she was blaming me of his status. On second thought, it was foolish of me to want him to come, but it was a much important person in my life to let him disappear that way. But perhaps it is better that things remain this way, after all I was about to leave Michael for David. If Ithink about it, Michael is security, unconditional love, however David is the unbridled passion, to floor the accelerator, to love a god of war with psychiatric problems, it has been the road to a chaos that I could not control, yet the wedding night I closed my eyes and imagined myself making love with David…
Vientiane, International District of Laos, January 4, 2167. Will Schwartz goes to seek David.
My taxi neared its destination, having passed through the long streets of the new metropolis built over this old city of the valley of the Mekong. Vientiane had become the capital of technology and progress, the old city was completely ripped by bulldozers and in its place had built the most modern city in Asia. They only had left standing the Pha That Luang and Wat Si Saket as a tourist attraction; about the rest, everything built before the XXII century had been demolished.
A little over thirty years ago, the Lao government took the decision to give up their legal independence to attract capital from around the world; they changed the status of Republic by International District, even so still maintained wide de facto sovereignty. The case is that Laos has the most dynamic economy of Southeastern Asia, and it is shown year after year with the exponential growth of its GDP, especially since the construction on the outskirts of Vientiane of an airport prepared for hypersonic flight (there are only four more around the world: Cape Town, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Nagasaki). Everyone was welcome, especially if they brought money, as fervent Christian this consumerism out of control disgusted me completely. Its past as Democratic Republic of the Pathet Lao and the nickname “The Land of the Million Elephants” was far.
Finally, the taxi stopped in front of Tower Europe, we entered the building and took one of the elevators, that man lived on the floor 117… 117-21…here it is. I pressed the buzzer while few laughs were heard from inside the apartment. The door opened, an Asian girl with some western factions wearing uniform of stewardess only partially buttoned was watching me funny not realizing that she was showing me much of her lingerie.
“Good morningMademoiselle, I amWillSchwartz, I’d like to talk to Lt. David Lavall.”
“Who is it, Keo?” I heard a male voice from inside the apartment.
“Agentleman calledWillSchwartzis askingfor you,David.”
“Make himpass, please.”
That woman led me to the dining room, a room decorated in a peculiar style, where a young man was drinking coffee. There could be no other than David Lavall, wearing a uniform of commercial airline pilot. His eyes were sad, his hair was ofindeterminatecolorbetweendark blondeandlight brown, according tohis filehe was about twenty fiveyearsormaybetwenty-six,thatwaswhat it seemed. Thehostessworea badgeon her uniformjacket, her name wasKeosaychayParmukasarnandit was unclearwhat was betweenthem, that womancould be an obstaclein our plans.
“Lieutenant of ShipLavall, I’m Colonel Will Schwartz of the Atlantic Republic’s Marines. Well, I mean retired colonel.”
“Pleased to meet you!” He shook my hand. “Would you like some coffee?”
Keo said something in a language like French that I could not understand and, in a minute, she brought me a hot and aromatic coffee. “David, shall I call you David?” He nodded. “I came to make you the proposal of your life.”
“I’m surprised; I’m an ex-pilot of the Navy, not a Marine.” Despite his sad look, I really could not say whether he suffered PTSD as our reporter assured, I was not apsychiatristbutI didn’t think that manhadanymental problem.
“I’malso thevice presidentof the Order ofthe Soldiers ofthe Faith, co-sponsors of the NewEarthspace program.”
“The New Earth project? ThemissiontoAlphaCentauri?”
“Thesame, your workwould beto instructpilots to handledifferentaircraft, they areall very youngand you arean idolfor them.”
“I’m not agood pilot, I’ve just been luckierthat the majority andthe bestcompanionsyou can have.”
“That a man of your age had participatedin three warsandhadshot downmorethan forty-fiveenemy planesisnota matter of luck, the Ministry of Defensehas recognized your innate ability to fly and your medals are well deserved.”
“WouldI have alsoto go toAlphaCentauri? I thinkI am notready toleave the Earthso long, I’m not comfortable inprecariousgravities, inthe waron MarsI did notpass ittoo well.”
“Only if you want, inmy deskyou will findthe two contractstochoose, the choiceis entirely yours.”
“I do not knowif I cando it, now I have anew life, when you are time living in Laos you discover that is where you’d want to die.”
“You cantakethe girlto theMoonDefenderif you wish. We have a very flexible program in a matter of form families in space.”
“Keo?” He laughed politely. “No, Keo is a free soul, any commitment binds us. By your form of talking I guess you believed we have a relationship. Our ties are more mystical and perhaps deeper than love, for me is a kind of spiritual counselor, a therapist whohelped me topass the most difficult months in my life. But let me talk to her, I tell her the news now.”
He went to the kitchen; she touched her right cheek and spoke in that language which I could not identify. They gently kissed on the lips and hugged. He returned to the table, his expression had changed from tender to martial.
“Sir, you already have an instructor pilot, it is my destiny.”
“All right, we’ll talk with your airline; you do not have to worry about anything. We already know that next have to fly to San Francisco; I personally will pass to pick you up, will be your last duty with Lao Airlines.”
“I want to ask for a favor if possible, Sir.”
“Keo has spent years trying to find out who is her father; the databases that we have consulted up to date don’t show any genetic profile like hers. She does not know where to look for more.”
“I understand, and you believe that from my office I can find some answers. Please send me the data to my cell card, code NFX68967, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks a lot Sir” Keo said.
“For you my name is Will.”
I left without having clear whether I could fulfill this favor, but I needed this man working for us. I’ll find the father of that girl even if it means to break some rules. I asked for a taxi with the cell card, which came immediately.
“Towards the nearest Catholic Church, today is the day of the Lord.”
Hypersonic flight terminal of San Francisco International Airport, January 8, 2167.
I was nervous, what if he backed down? He had not signed yet any contract, David was free as a bird; I must put him in a cage before he would change his mind and decided to remain a civilian pilot. I asked impatiently to the girl on the desk of Lao Airlines.
“Excuse me miss, at what time lands the flight from Vientiane?”
“Right now, they are collecting luggage, Sir, they soon will come through that door” the stewardess replied politely.
In a couple of minutes began to appear people of Asian race by the exit of passengers, there were many people of various ethnic groups I could not identify. Behind them I saw a man dressed as a pilot, a little higher than most of those were around him, David was dragging a suitcase of medium size. As soon as he saw me, sped up and extended his hand.
“Good morning Colonel Schwartz.”
“Please, I am Will for you.”
“Understood Will, as you see I have finally decided myself to.”
“I was afraid that you would not come.”
“Me too, but Keo has encouraged me to continue, she says I need a goal in life. The truth is that I didn’t see myself carrying passengers from one place to another in the world all my life.”
“What is your relationship with Keosaychay Parmukasarn?”
“I’d give her all the blood in my body if it were necessary and so would you if you knew her. She came to our world to spread love, would never hurt anyone. I have no relationship with her that may be defined as sentimental, is like a part of my soul, it’s like a part of all, the balance between sanity and insanity.”
“Do you know where she is now?”
“I am not sure, she left two days ago to a place that she has not revealed me, but sure she calls me to inquire about the status of the investigation of her father’s identity.”
“That’s what I wanted to say, the profile of this woman is impossible. According to the records I have consulted, her biological father was sterilized sixty years ago and I would say that Keo has not more than twenty five years old.”
“Keo is sixty-eight, so which is why she is looking for answers. To Keo is too hard to explain there where she goes why despite having the retirement age she still seems a young woman. She has to resort periodically to falsifiers of documents and change jobs to avoid being discovered.”
“The explanation has to be given by Moses Black, who is a good friend of the Soldiers of the Faith.”
“I do not understand. What he has to doin this matter? Is he also a geneticist doctor?”
“What I will tell you is top secret, you cannot tell anybody. Black Moses was born in Seville as Juan Escalona one hundred and four years ago and they experimented with him in a clinic in Southeast Asia more or less at the time that must have been conceived Keo.”
“Then, Keo is…”
“A mutant, any biological child of Black was unknown after the experiment. To avoid a distortion in the DNA of their progeny, he agreed to be sterilized. And despite all precautions, now appears a daughter who has inherited this anomaly.”
“Wow, then Moses Black…”
“His progressive aging is a disguise; actually he only would appear about fifty years if he didn’t wear a dermal camouflage. I beg your discretion, if it comes to light it would jeopardize their lives and the image of the order would be impaired.”
“I would never hurt Keo; her generosity healed my inner wound. She found the light where there was nothing but darkness.”
“If she contacts you, please do not reveal her origin, tell her we found nothing. It is extremely important not to disclose this secret.”
“But if she looks me at the eyes will know I’m lying. My inner self is not a secret to her.”
“So please do not ever see her again if you have some estimation for her, you could put her in a serious danger.”
“It will be the best for everyone… though the pain of losing a friend so important corroded me.”
After that conversation, we went to the parking lot of the airport; I guided him to my car of compressed air. I put his suitcase in the trunk and got into the vehicle.
“Sit back, we have more than two hour drive to home. Have you ever been at Sacramento?”
“Truly not yet. I’ve never had time to go beyond San Francisco.”
“You’ll love it; it is abeautiful city much quieter than the cities you’re used to visit.”
The two hours were long and silent; the man looked the cars of highway bored; perhaps religious music station was not a good choice. Maybe I had been insensitive to his recent experiences, not even a year ago that David had been flying over a Tel Aviv devastated, picking up people, or carrying Marines troops to Jerusalem with a helicopter. I was sure that the environment of a Christian family would put him on our side; Doris’s home cooking would make him back to memories of his childhood. Almost coming home looked like he began to react.
“Sorry Will, I have not been a traveling companion too funny, I was thinking about Keo.”
“Be honest, what does Keo mean for you?”
“Keo took me into her home, she applied me a therapy to fight my PTSD, in a few months has transformed me as a person.”
“Do you love her?”
“Like an older sister or a mother.”
The conversation in the car did not give much more, since we got home after the last sentence of David, we stopped in front of the garage ramp, I opened the trunk so that David could pick up his luggage.
“Welcome to my humble abode!”
“The house is impressive, of the nineteenth century?”
“It was built the early twentieth century, my grandfather, my father and I grew up here. My kids also raised here, of course.”
I opened the door and invited him in, his gaze softened, looked at the portraits and the small objects that personalize a house and breathe life. He stopped at a photo where we were still eight, the portrait was made in Santa Monica, a few months before the death of Frank in the brutal campaign of Morocco, Camille was still a little girl with braids the color of wheat. At that moment Doris went through one of the doors, wearing an apron because she had spent all morning preparing a large family meal that we devoted our guest.
“Do you introduce me to him or shall I do this myself?”
“I’m sorry, David, this is my lovely wife Doris, the backbone of the family.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Schwartz.” David extended his hand, but my effusive Doris made bend over the young man for giving him two kisses.
“Where have you lost your Mediterranean character, boy?” My Doris was born in Genoa, was a beautiful and outgoing Italian ragazza of whom I fell in love in an international camp of the Soldiers of the Faith when I was twenty, I still remember the anger of my parents when I appeared in Sacramento with a marriage certificate and a pregnant wife.
“I’m sorry, ma’am; I’ve always been a little shy. My sister is who has Mediterranean character, I’m more arctic.”
“I’m not madam, for you I’m Doris. Will, I have prepared him the Frank’s room, go with him andthen go down to the dining room.”
I accompanied David to the bedroom mentioned by Doris, I him indicated the closet where he could keep his clothes, and he quickly realized that the room was a sanctuary, but was cautious and did not make me any uncomfortable question.
“Down the hall you will find a bathroom, but call first to the door because many people live in this house and you can find someone.”
“Do I have time for a shower?”
“Of course, but do not delay too much because Camille goes to pee often and you can scare her…”
Going down the stairs, I could see that Doris was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, because she was aware of everything around this young man and she agreed with my decision.
“Do you like David, Doris?”
“He’s perfect, I’m sure that Camille will fall in love for him immediately, they have a very similar character, and he seems sorely in need of someone who listen to him, he looks so sad.”
“It’s a pity that he is not a believer, but withhis commitment I think he will quickly understand our way of life.”
“What about the mutant?”
“I think she will not be a problem, Moses will handle of her.”
“Will he handle? Does not mean…”
“Do not worry; Moses will not do any damage to his daughter, he just will prevent that the mutation to get out from our hands. I think she acted more as a mother than as lover of David, but I cannot put my hand in the fire, he is very reserved when we touch this topic.”