In the shadow of the stolen light
“You mean the rescue unit?”
“Yes, I wasn’t alone there. Did you find only me there?”
Lora slightly pushed his chair to a bench down in the alley and sat.
“There was also a woman in your rescue unit. Unfortunately, she had died before we arrived.”
There was a pause and the man shook his head.
“I don’t remember her name,” he said bitterly. “I’m trying but I just can’t recall anything!”
His last words were permeated with obvious rage.
“Are you angry with yourself?” her question sounded very quietly but Derek reacted immediately.
“Wouldn’t you be?!”
Lora shook her head.
“Of course I can become angry… But rage is a tremendously destructive force that can cause a lot of harm.”
Derek’s anger immediately turned into amazement and now he was intently listening to Lora.
“We have learnt to control the self-destructive part of our personality,” she explained, seeing how much it puzzled him.
“Control? What do you mean by that? Control your temper?”
“No, we don’t actually repress fury, but we realize its futility.”
Derek still didn’t have any idea of what she was talking about.
“You are people though, aren’t you?” he tried to clarify. “Ordinary people get angry, fight, become furious…”
Lora sighed heavily, realizing that she was unable to explain her point of view to Derek without revealing to him the genuine reasons for the long voyages of ‘Solar Flotilla’.
“Derek, there is no doubt that we are human beings and that our ancestors were from Earth. But you must know something else. The doctor said that you mustn’t get stressed…”
“Please, spare me, Lora! What haven’t you told me? Do you mean about me spending 50 years in the rescue unit, and that since then the earthlings started flying into space on huge spaceships?”
“It’s much more complicated than that.”
“Even more complicated?” Derek repeated her words hesitantly.
“Our ancestors left Earth more than two hundred and fifty years ago. We think your ship was sent to look for us fifty years later. You were in stasis for two hundred years, Derek. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t know how to begin.”
There was a long pause.
“Every story has a beginning,” the young man uttered unexpectedly.
“In 2014 Andre Mendes, one of the richest men on the planet at that time, founded a society called the ‘Unity of Opposites’. Not many people believed that one day he would transform from a successful and practical businessman into a philosopher and philanthropist. Nevertheless, many different people became interested in his ideas and joined a team under his leadership. Andre thought that every human being has two opposite sides: one being a creative side, while the other a destructive side. The latter makes people desire limitless power which they use to start wars and enslave others; save up enormous fortunes at the expense of simple workers; and turn a blind eye to the hungry and terminally ill. Mendes was absolutely convinced that the expanding human ‘ego’ was to blame for the destruction of civilization. Our leader taught his followers to be aware of that destructive part, to find the line beyond which our feelings and desires become a deadly weapon against ourselves and the outside world.”
“Is this all the philosophy?”
“In general terms, yes. Many people thought that Andre created yet another sect of fanatics; however, with time, his teachings bore real fruit. People who managed to tame their ego and achieved harmony could discover new inner abilities. As a result, they could easily develop cutting-edge technologies and expand the human knowledge in all areas of science. Soon after, a large plot of land on the African continent was purchased where the society members built a whole city; a stronghold of science and new philosophy. Their inventions could help the human race to recover from many illnesses, preserve nature, create alternative sources of energy and much more. Besides, all of that was free of charge. Andre proposed to the governments of the world to collaborate in providing mutual help in the development and application of new technologies; not for profit or war victories, but for the sake of the harmonious co-existence of all the people on the planet.”
“But this is utopia!”
“No. He promoted the principles of rationality. However, politicians, religious organisations and large corporations wanted to master new knowledge in order to use it for their own benefit. As the years went by, the number of our enemies grew more and more. After seven years, the confrontation between the Unity and the rest of the world reached its culmination when an attempted assassination of Andre occurred during his annual speech. On that day the Council, created by Andre to manage his organization’s affairs, faced the ever-important question of ‘what to do?’ Their philosophy did not accept any kind of military resistance, but what could they do to defend their beliefs? After the injury, our founder was very weak and the councillors were afraid that the death of their leader in the circumstances of an implacable hostility could become fatal for the whole society. It was then that the ‘Solar Flotilla’ project, housed in some of the city buildings, became the ultimate priority. In its core lay one astrophysicist’s dissertation, where he had predicted the destruction of Earth due to strong flames from the Sun. Using this paper as a base, Andre Mendes decided to develop several experimental projects-arks of some sort, able to save humanity from extinction. The construction was in full swing, but this time with a new purpose. Gradually all the society members were relocated to the ships. None of the enemies had the slightest idea about the magnitude of the project. They were only watching closely fearing a strong reaction from the ‘Unity of Opposites’ to their potential direct hostilities. This never happened and on 22 July 2025 five of the biggest city buildings roared to the air and left planet Earth forever.”
Derek did not move and continued staring at nothing in particular in front of him.
“I realize that my story sounds absolutely bizarre and probably confuses you even more, taking into consideration your memory loss about any events that happened to you on Earth.”
“I guess you?re right…” the young man answered, puzzled.. “All this is absolutely incomprehensible… The two hundred years in stasis, the people who had left Earth before my birthday and who continue living now in a space city…”
Lora sighed heavily.
“And we still don’t know why your ship went after us…”
“Why are you so sure that it followed ‘Solar Flotilla’?”
“Our ships headed in the same direction. This data is supported by your onboard computer and the calculations of our experts. And although they don’t know how your on-board navigation system managed to trace ‘Solar Flotilla’, there is no doubt that our ships were meant to meet, but failed for some reason. The fact that we found you in space was a total accident.”
“I don’t know the answer. I can only recall some vague images…”
“The clearest is of a wooden house… It’s far away from the city, but the megalopolis towers are so tall that they can be seen from dozens of miles away. There is smog hovering over them… Black clouds… I’m sure it’s hot and stuffy there. While here, far away from it, there are trees and you can breathe much easier.”
“Is it your home?”
“I’m not sure,” he shrugged, “Also, I see a building without windows. Inside there are many gadgets like monitors, flickering lamps, some beeping sounds. There are people, many people, all dressed in the same clothes,” the young man looked at Lora’s white uniform. “Their clothes are different. They’re dark blue, I think.”
“I have an idea!” Lora abruptly jumped from her seat. “Let’s go to the archives. There’s a lot of information about Earth and, thus, it’s more convenient to look through the old files. You’ll probably be able to find something familiar.”
“Alright,” nodded her guest, a little shocked by her enthusiasm.
The interior of the archives was shaped like an enfilade, whereby a row of rooms were successively attached to one another with doors placed on one axis, creating a sense of cross-cutting perspective for hundreds of meters away. Derek unwittingly compared this place with a giant library, where thousands of shelves would stand against both sides of the central corridor, and hide in the dark under a sky-high ceiling. They were full of tiles that looked like books with glowing neon spines. Lora paused at one of the information boards, which looked like a tall table presenting holographic data.
“OK, let’s see,” she swiped the surface with her hand and a blonde-haired woman’s projection appeared over the board.
“Welcome to the data backup programme. Please state what information you are interested in: the time period or the location.”