Chapter 55: Nothing but the truth

Immediately after returning to the Facility, Chrissy went to take a shower to wash off the rubbery smell of the wet suit, got dressed in her casual but classy clothes, and went to work on yesterday’s activity reports.

In the middle of her analysis, she stopped and extracted her FastCom from her pocket, stared at it momentarily, and answered it.  The voice was unfamiliar, but with the weekly arrival of new personnel, she paid no heed to it.  The man on the end of the line requested her help to open a room on the opposite side of the set of the transporters she had used to send the equipment to the Castaways.  Knowing that most people didn’t have much luck accessing rooms in that area, she informed the Command Centre, as part of the new security protocol, and made her way there.

As she waited for the employee to arrive, she opened the room, peeked inside, and saw no one.  It was an equipment room and she immediately realized that she was right; these rooms were definitely not accessible to everyone.  Five minutes had passed and still no one came.  She felt a little frustrated that the man made her wait.  As she stood near the doorway with her FastCom in her hand, thinking of Steven and what she and Lawson had talked about earlier to divert her attention from her current chore, she found herself staring at the transporters with a blank expression on her face.  As her gaze gravitated to the activation panel, she suddenly remembered about the third symbol that she and Steven saw days back.  Consumed by her own curiosity, and assuming that she had time to kill since she was just waiting for a co-employee to arrive, she decided to step on the second pad and verify if the third symbol was still showing.  To her surprise, it was still there.  She took note of the situation and switched the panel off.  She was about to step off the platform when she noticed that the lights on the first transporter pad next to her started to glow.  The pad was engulfed by the typical mist associated with replicators and transporters and then it dissipated, revealing a seasoned man dressed in jeans and a black shirt.  He looked at her for a moment, registering her vital signs in his biometric implant.  Panic gripped her and she took several frantic steps away from the platform, clutching her chest in fear of the sudden events that had unfolded before her eyes.

“Don’t be afraid.  I’m a friend,” said the man in a calm voice but at a fast pace, as if to try to make sure she wouldn’t run away before he could explain his presence.  “My name is Alex.”

“Okay,” was her nervous answer, as she instinctively looked over her shoulder, down the winding corridor behind her, knowing for a fact that the closest help she could get was more than three hundred metres away.

Seeing that she was nervous to the brink of panic, he relaxed his voice even more and kept his hand well in view.  “Is Steven close?  I’m here to meet both of you.”

“Aye, he is coming here.  He should have been here by now,” answered Chrissy, with a poorly concealed lie.

“If you don’t mind, I will see where he is, agreed?” Alex said, raising his hand and exposing a device the size of a palm-sized mobile phone, which Chrissy couldn’t identify at first.  The colour and footprint of almost all of the Builders’ equipment were relatively the same.  “Ah, he is in section Orange, fourth level and has a communicator with him.  Can you call him for me?  That might be easier than me doing it, please.”

“Okay,” and she did so, knowing that to be able to use this device to see Steven, Alex was likely high in level, at least as high as them, which meant he was not likely to harsm them.

Steven noticed the nervousness in her voice and hurried to her location.  It took him about three minutes to get to the corridor where Chrissy and the newcomer were waiting.  She didn’t ask any questions and Alex didn’t volunteer to share any information, simply keeping his eyes on his device and following Steven’s progress toward them.

As Steven arrived, Alex greeted him with a handshake and introduced himself as “Alex” only.  Yet, Steven felt he had recognized him, although he was not sure from where.  Looking at Chrissy, he saw that she was more relaxed and so he allowed himself to do the same.

“How did you get here?” asked Steven, hoping that the answer would be something other than through the transporter.

“I’m from another Facility, as you call them,” answered Alexander, still looking at his life sign detector despite the proximity setting enabled.  The meeting was too important to get cut.  “I’m here to invite you to come and meet some people who, like me, would like to discuss a few things with you.  In return, we can answer a lot of your questions about the purpose of this place, who built it, and more importantly, the truth about the human condition.”

Genuinely interested in the latter, Steven was reluctant to tell him that they had already been told about who had built it, when and why, but little else. Whoever that Alex was, he didn’t know everything about their activities and didn’t seem to know that they had discovered a room with an artificial being in it.  He hoped that Chrissy wouldn’t reveal that fact just yet, but she didn’t seem inclined to, and he was happy about it.

“I assume that you are the one who let us see the new Facility?” Steven ventured.

“That’s right,”

“Then please, if you could return to your Facility, I would like to talk to Chrissy first in private and then make our decision,”

“Sure, but please, take this.  It is a custom-made communicator. You call them FastCom now, I think.  It is also a life sign detector and a few other things that we can explain to you later,” offered Alexander, as he handed the device to Steven and waved at them before stepping on the transporter and eventually vanished.

The device seemed more advanced somehow, with its rounded edges and the display more colourful and user-friendly.  Steven noticed that it was in English and it also showed that they were still alone in this section.  On the top was a button labeled Call, which he assumed would reach Alex on the other side.

“He seems to know a lot about us.  He knew to find me here and he knew where to look for you, which tells me that he must know that we are high level.”

As he turned toward her, he saw the expression on her face and smiled.  “I’m excited, too.”

“So, we are going together.  That way, we wouldn’t have to worry about each other,” offered Chrissy, returning his smile.

“I love you.  But no, let me go first.  Trust me, it is not courage, it is self-preservation.  If it is a trap, I will radio in and you can go get help.  If everything is fine, I’ll tell you and then you can come.”

“But we can’t be gone for long or at least, if we want to, we should tell someone that we are off the grid for the rest of the day.  Then we will have all night in there until morning.”

“Okay, you can tell someone or write one of your notes,” said Steven.  “Also, I can use a duress code to tell you if everything is all right or not.  Then you can come or inform the others of the situation, depending on what I tell you.”  Still, deep inside, he hoped with all his heart for the former.

They saw no point in waiting.  Chrissy gave him a long hug and reviewed with him the two words they would use to inform each other of the situation once he was on the other side.  As he stepped on the pad, he pressed the call button and Alex answered without delay and acknowledged that he was ready to receive them.  Steven handed the device to Chrissy, brought up the menu, and teleported off the pad without pausing for a moment, for fear that he would lose his courage.

He appeared, facing outward just as he had entered, momentarily blinded by the higher light level in the new corridor.  His first time in the transporter was ordinary, as he had been accustomed to long sonic showers and the Chamber, which felt exactly the same.

The corridor seemed to have the same dimension as the one he had just left, but everything was totally different. His first impression was that of a luxurious hotel or a palace corridor with egg-white walls and dark beech wood door frames, columns, and archways evenly spaced as far as his eyes could see.  As he looked around, he noticed something that didn’t quite belong with the rest of the décor, something very familiar—a brown, luminous handrail spanning the length of the corridor.  There was no doubt that he was in the Brown sector of a new Facility.

Alex was there to welcome him and hand him a communicator.  “First, let me welcome you to the Inuit Station.  I recommend you call Chrissy to let her know that you are alright.”

“The Inuit Station?  We are in Canada?” exclaimed Steven in astonishment, knowing that Inuit could only refer to the native people of the North Territories of his home country.

“Yes, my friend.  You have returned home after three years,” answered Alexander, lowering his eyes to the device he had just handed Steven.

Steven understood and pressed the call button, and it connected instantly.  Then, he eventually saw her beautiful features appear.

“Are you all right?” asked Chrissy, trying not to appear nervous.

“Yes, I’m fine.  Apparently, I’m back home.”

“What?”

“It seems that this place is at the North Pole.  You knew that Santa lived in Canada, right?  I’m here with one of his elves right now.”  The statement generated a chuckle out of everyone and defused a bit of tension.  “Baby, I can’t see anything to determine if these people are friends or foes, but I just remembered where I have seen Alex before.”

At that statement, Alex was puzzled since he had never seen Steven in person before a moment ago in Norway.

“Yeah, I saw a picture of him in Eirik’s quarters.  They were both on a boat with a mountain in the background, dressed in winter coats.”

“Oh, I remember that picture.  It was a few years ago, but it was on an oil platform, not a boat,” replied Alexander, as he remembered the morning that picture was taken.

“Chrissy, eh, I think it is safe for us to take a walk in the rain,” said Steven, knowing that she understood the status of things and would take the necessary actions.

In less than five minutes, Chrissy and Steven were reunited and welcomed by Alex to the Inuit Station.  She was also welcomed by Steven to Canada.

“First, my full name is Alexander Newman and before you ask, I have been Eirik’s friend for more than ten years.  So, without further ado, let’s go to meet the others, shall we?”

“Your place is much more beautiful than ours,” observed Chrissy, looking at everything like a child in a Toys R Us.  “Have you brought all the materials from outside or have you replicated them?”

“Neither, really,” answered Alexander, trying to figure out how to explain it in layman’s terms.  “The Stations already have a lot of patterns in their database, and you can also create your own.  All you have to do is to select one and the system will create it for you.”

“So, when we understand the system better, we can do that in our Facility?” Chrissy was elated with the idea that she would have the chance to change her environment and create new designs and applications.

“Yes, of course.  Now that you have managed to reactivate the modern language function, the people at the Norwegian Station will be able to make significant progress.”

“So, I assume that you have a working knowledge of the ten-level system, as well?” asked Chrissy.

“Oh, yeah, you can say that.  Here we are using a similar system for each reference from 0 to 100 to give us more flexibility.  However, the system is not at all level-based.  It just seemed convenient for us to understand it as such.

“Are you still continuing to analyze why people have different levels?” she continued.

“Definitely.  People like us are often analyzed by lower levels because they want to gain more freedom to access areas and equipment.  Sometimes, our behaviours and habits are imitated by those who want to understand why we can do certain things that they can’t.  Also, Training Rooms are more popular among lower levels in their endeavour to better themselves.”

“It seems to be the other way around in the outside world.  Enlightened people tend to read a lot and educate themselves more while the people with low education seem content to remain ignorant,” said Steven, a hint of disdain visible on his face.

“Precisely,” answered Alexander simply.

“Mr. Alex,” said Chrissy.

“Just Alex, please.”

“Alex, can you tell us more about how the system works?”

“Sure.  We have decent understanding of the system and we also have access to the algorithm that determines the levels of people.  As it is integrated in the Station’s core, we can’t alter any part of it.  The only way to increase your access is by using the Training Rooms.  We’ll show you later.  No one can grant more access to someone, like you would on your computer... except, perhaps temporarily, by invitation,” explained Alexander, looking at his watch and calling the elevator.  “I’m not a scientist, so that means I should be able to explain it in layman’s terms, because that’s all I know myself.”  He gave a self-deprecating laugh.  “I’ll give it a try.  Let’s see.  The way it was explained to me is that the system of levels is as complex as the human DNA.  It has about twenty thousand parameters and when a person is analyzed, the system uses a sophisticated algorithm to determine his or her reaction to certain problems, or how he or she will respond to some scenarios and interact with others.  Basically, it is like a test that you can’t cheat on, primarily because you are not really the one answering the questions.  People’s behaviours are constantly observed by the system, which knows how you would react in any and in all situations.  So it can determine if it is safe or not to grant you access.  The kicker is that it works for animals too.  Actually, it was theorized that it might have been designed for them in the first place.”

“That’s impressive,” said Chrissy.  “Can you access these scenarios to see how people would react, before they even know it themselves?”

“Unfortunately, not as far as I know.  But we can change the answer to the questions at times,” explained Alexander while exiting the elevator to a new corridor, which looked like the inside of a pyramid with large brick walls and complete with grass moss.  However, the feeling was nothing like Steven had experienced in Egypt.  Here, the temperature, smell, and humidity level were as constant as anywhere else in the Station.  “The place has several rooms designed for testing people.  I’m not sure if these were classrooms in the Builders’ time, but today, someone can enter them and be exposed to various scenarios and, if completed successfully, his or her level will increase.”

Feeling that he had understood enough, Steven ventured to ask one question that was eating at him since he had seen Alexander in Norway.  “I think I now understand enough about the restriction system.  So if you don’t mind, I have an unrelated question for you:  Why have you reset the Facility in Norway and made us believe that Eirik had discovered it by accident?”

Alexander had not really been surprised by the question, but still hesitated in answering it.  “I think it is too early in the day for you to know or even understand fully our reasons. Let’s just say for now that the Norwegian Station is the oldest and least advanced of all the remaining Stations in the network,” he explained, pausing for a moment to weigh his next words.  “Here is an example that I think describes it well:  When I taught my daughter how to drive and bought her first car, I got an old Toyota in relatively good condition, but old enough for both of us not to feel bad if she had an accident with it.  That’s the same with the Station in Norway.  With what’s coming, we knew that we would need more space for people and we wanted the rest of the world to prove that they were worthy of that chance.  Everyone here felt that it was unfair for us to keep it for ourselves.  The only thing that didn’t go according to plan was Jack convincing Eirik not to reveal its existence to more people or to the Norwegian government.  After three years, though, we had enough of that nonsense and told the Monarchy.  Things started moving forward after that.”

“So, it is like a grand-scale experiment for you?” asked Chrissy.

If you want to put it that way was Alexander’s short reply.  “Look, given the time difference, we planned that meeting in the morning so that we can have all day, and for you to have the rest of your day and all night before you have to return to your Station,” he said, now standing in front of a door and waiting for the discussion to be over in order for him to enter.  “You will have a lot of time to ask all the questions you want and, after we are done explaining everything to you, you will be able to ask questions to your hearts’ content.  As far as I know, you are almost maxed out so I wouldn’t focus too much on the level system.  Actually, if I were you, I would be more interested to know the truth about our world.”

Steven registered the statement, but his thoughts were on the word everything and hoped it was true.  He felt like he had received a personal invitation to visit the CIA headquarters in Langley, where he would be told all the secrets they had accumulated since they had stopped being the Office of Strategic Services and became the Central Intelligence Agency.

As the door vanished, the scenery completely changed again, from ancient Egyptian corridors to a luxurious living room with the largest windows they had ever seen, overlooking a pristine white beach and a turquoise ocean, complete with the smell of saltwater and the background smell of lavender.  The room had five padded chairs, much like those found in the lounge areas of spas and resorts.  Steven’s first thought was that the chairs would make it comfortable for the time he hoped to spend in this room with Chrissy, getting all the answers his brain could take.  On the beach, they could see two men walking back toward the door on the side of the room, which looked like a regular patio sliding door, the kind which could have been bought in any Home Depot Renovation Centres in North America.

Alexander motioned them toward the bar and offered them a drink.  Steven had a Mudslide and Chrissy, never having heard of the chocolate-coated glass filled with milk, vodka, and Irish cream, went with Steven’s choice.  For a moment, the cold sweet liquid and their surroundings made them forget that they were underground and only a few hundred kilometres away from the North Pole.

As they looked outside, Chrissy noticed that the men were almost at the door and were walking on the sand at a relatively good pace.  She could see that one of the two was old, but moved with ease despite his age.  The old man made it to the door first and slid it open, while the other closed it.

“Chrissy, Steven, let me introduce you to two of our oldest members, Chief Ataninnuaq—it means The one who counsels, the one who has lived and knows things, and this is Gilles Lavoie. Everyone calls him Gill,” he said, taking the empty glasses from their hands and placing them on the replicator to be truly recycled.

Everyone shook hands and sat in a circle, Steven and Chrissy together, facing the window, and the other three facing them, with their backs to the ocean.

“Let me welcome you again to this Station, which we refer to as the Inuit Station, for its proximity to the North Pole and because it was rediscovered by chance by an Inuit and a non-native fifty years ago,” said Gill.  “We have given this presentation many times, but not often to high-level people and never to two at a time.  There will be a lot to tell, and we have all day, but if that’s not enough, we can continue in the days and weeks to come if we have to. So, no need to rush.  You have complete access to everything and all areas of the Station, short of the private apartment of the people permanently living here.”

“First, let me thank you for your invitation and your time.  I never expected to have the chance to meet people who can teach us about this place in such a short time.  Please, do trust us to keep the existence of your Station to ourselves and whatever you feel to entrust us with,” said Chrissy, straightened up in her long chair and looking at Steven who nodded in agreement.

“We know.  You are here because of your scores with the Station.  We have learned over the years to trust the Builders in matters of people analysis,” started Gill. “We will explain more to you in time, but for now, I would like to tell you the history of how we discovered the Station, our mission, and finally we can show and teach you about the technologies and why there is a level system at all.  Overall, let’s say that you will learn more about the outside world than about the Builders, and that’s what we are hoping for.”

Gill, seeing that his guests were trying to make sense of something, paused.  Steven’s mind was still pondering on the meaning of the truth about the human condition.  As far as he knew, the human condition only referred to the inevitability of death and that interested him more than all the rest combined.  Chrissy, being an engineer and not a big fan of politics or history was disappointed with Gill’s statement.

“I can see it in both of your faces. It’s almost common for everyone to wonder at that fact, but trust me, we have done it like that for decades now.  And you will see that although learning about the gadgetry is nice, learning the truth about your lives and the biggest tragedy in the history of men is far more valuable.”  He paused momentarily to assess their reactions.

“Please, go on,” begged Steven, hoping not to be disappointed.

“Okay, Inuit Station 101:  We are currently about seven hundred kilometres from the North Pole.  On top of us is the Canadian Forces Station Alert.  It’s a signal interception and weather facility—the most northern and permanently inhabited place in the world.  It was named Alert after the HMS Alert, which wintered a few kilometres from here in 1875.  The Inuit are calling the place Nunangata Ungata, which means The People of the Land Beyond the Land Beyond.  The irony is that one of the scientists on the surface heard the name, and thinking that it referred to the CFS Alert station, named it like that.  And for the past fifty years, people have wrongly believed that it refers to Alert, Nunavut, the town and not this underground complex.  But we are really The People of the Land Beyond the Land Beyond,” Gill explained.

“In 1950, a Royal Canadian Air Force Lancaster airplane crashed during the construction of the weather station when its parachute, used for airdrops delivery, became entangled to the tail of the aircraft.  Everyone onboard, all nine crew members, died.  A few weeks later, a second plane also crashed due to a dense fog.  One of its purposes was to bring back the bodies of the crew who died for proper burial.  Fortunately, no one died in that second crash, but it was decided that the bodies from the first crash be buried at the end of the runway.  As the graves were being dug, the men discovered that they couldn’t go any deeper.  Underneath, less than a metre from the surface, was the outer shell of the Inuit Station.  It took us more than a month to dig through the permafrost to discover the entrance.  A lot of people have speculated that it could have been buried much deeper since it was built before the last Ice Age, but here it is.”

“The first people to go in were some Inuit, including Ataninnuaq.  Later, military soldiers, scientists, and army engineers went in to map it and discover what technologies could be harvested.  The military kept the discovery a secret and surprisingly enough, the Americans on the base never learned of the existence of the Station.  Then, in July 1957, a general, who was friends with the biggest traitor in Canadian history, was informed of the existence of the place.  We nearly got evicted and the Station exposed, not to mention being sold to the Americans.”

Next to Gill, Alex was operating his device and made two-dimensional photos appear from thin air in front of Steven and Chrissy.  The man on the picture appeared to be in his late fifties, having fair skin that somewhat looked like the result of an over-application of makeup, which matched the quantity of gel or grease in his hair.  But most importantly, the eyes seemed to be speaking to them.  Steven had seen that look before in Rome, on the bust of the Roman Emperor Nero.  The madness in that look was unmistakable.

“This Prime Minister cancelled the Arrow Project, the most advanced fighter jet ever made at the time, to please the Americans.  The plane was so advanced that almost every country in the world wanted to buy one.  But even after that, this traitor forced the project to be abandoned and the research destroyed.  No sane man would kill their cash cow, but he did.  That piece of white trash did it, despite the objection of every member of his Cabinet, except the one on the Americans’ payroll, of course.  Then he almost managed to have us kicked out of NATO and finally, when he saw that he would lose the election, he tried to save his reign by underwriting the Canadian Bill of Rights.  Today, we suspect that the Americans also know of the Station, but the Canadian government has always denied its existence,” said Gill, in an apologetic tone for his obvious frustration despite having repeated the story a hundred times.

“But I thought that your two countries were longtime friends? You have the biggest unprotected border in the world and you depend on each other for trades, right?” asked Chrissy, knowing that her knowledge of history and politics was limited, mainly by lack of interest and because she had never traveled to either of the two countries.

“Your question will be answered soon.  For the time being, your statement is true enough and for that reason, it will take more time for you to understand the reality of the relationship we have with our neighbours to the south,” said Ataninnuaq calmly, signalling Gill to continue.

“Since then, we have revealed the existence of this place to all the Prime Ministers during their initial top secret meeting.  The most avid fan of the Station was Kim Campbell.  She helped us in many ways, especially with funding for special projects and by making sure that the Station remains protected at all times by the Air Force, inside and out.  She also cancelled a helicopter contract, which meant that the money was redirected fully to us for an urgent project we had at the time.  Cancelling that contract was political suicide for her.  She was not re-elected as a result, but she never regretted her decision.  She is now living in the Station, although if you were to look at her today, you wouldn’t be able to recognize her at all.”

“Now, we need to discuss another Facility, the Babylonian Station or the Iraqi Station,” continued Gill.  He had read both of their files and checked the Station system.  Though they both behaved most of their life as an atheist, rejecting any and all religions and the existence of a God or gods. It made him feel confident that this part of the presentation would be understood quickly by both of them.  “As you probably know, the first civilization to have emerged after the last Ice Age was in modern day Iraq.  Our reports showed that a few inhabitants of that Station ventured outside and slowly started rebuilding.  The major problem they faced was primarily one of knowledge.  As surprising as it may seem, they had lost the ability to function autonomously.”  At that statement, Gill stopped and looked at Chrissy’s distorted face.

“Chrissy, I can see that you have problems believing that part, am I right?” asked Alexander.  She nodded but didn’t explain.  “Alright, Chrissy, let me ask.  Would you be able to make a basic microchip on your own?”

“Yes, I have all the necessary knowledge to do so,” she replied proudly.

“But, would you be able to do it without any of the modern equipment and tools available to you today?”

She took a few seconds to think before answering.  “Probably not, since I have almost no knowledge of the primary sector.”

“Meaning, that without people to extract the minerals from the soil and transforming them to a point where you can use them to make your microchip, you wouldn’t be able to do anything?”

“Correct.”

“There is no shame in that,” said Ataninnuaq.  “I doubt that many of our young would be able to survive outside for more than a day, while our people have roamed these ice fields for generations and prospered.”

Gill waited for an instant to make sure Ataninnuaq had finished, nodded to thank Alex and continued.  As I was saying, the people who exited the Station built a civilization for themselves, but life was hard and a lot of knowledge was lost, as the people started scattering all over the Middle East and Europe.  After a few generations, most had forgotten the existence of the Station.  Eventually, it is believed that they encountered people from the south, perhaps Africans, who had survived the Ice Age in more temperate climate and without the need for the Stations,” said Gill.  “Alex, you could do a much better explaining on that part than I do.  I’ll take over again when we are ready to explain more about the technology.”

“Sure, Gill,” said Alexander, expected to be asked.  “The reason why I’m the one to explain that next part is because I have studied psychology and theology for many years and probably because I’m the one who appears the less frustrated whenever I explain it.  Let’s start with a few questions, shall we?”

“What do you think about God?”

“I don’t believe in the Christian god or any of the other gods, for that matter,” Steven answered coldly.

“Okay, let me rephrase it:  What do you think about the god depicted in the Old Testament?”

“He is an asshole,” replied Steven coldly.

All three men laughed.  “It seems the higher the level, the more direct people answer that question,” Gill quipped sarcastically as he shook his head in amusement.

“And why do you say that?” continued Alexander.

“I didn’t read much of the Old Testament.  In school, we learned the new one.  But still, what I know about it is enough to make Mao Zedong, who is responsible for the murder of more than 70 million Chinese, sound like Mother Teresa.  The Bible also lists wrathful stuff like floods, genocides, and cruel punishments, and of course, the Ten Commandments themselves.  One of these commandments says something like, Your God is a jealous God and if you don’t worship me, I will curse you and your children and the four generations after you.”

“Not really biblical, but you definitely grasp the general meaning of the fifth commandment and the rest about the God in the Christian Bible,” Alexander said, thinking he would have described God as a pissed-off teenager in desperate need of help.  “Now, here is the actual text of it.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

“Uh, I wouldn’t have managed to remember that,” said Steven, clearly impressed.

“Oh, me neither,” replied Alexander, while tapping the side of his head with his index finger.  “I have an implant that allows me to link up to the main database,” and with that, he winked.

Now it was Chrissy who was impressed and was on her way to ask when she could receive hers.  But she had seen in Steven’s eyes that the discussion was not about the Facility, the Bible or God, but about them being let through a path of discovery, so she refrained from interrupting them.

“I’m sure that as religious skeptics, you guys believe that the many versions of the Bible were written by men and not by God, right?” and predictably, they both nodded.  “Good. What if I tell you that the God of the Old Testament existed and that in fact there were many at first, all former inhabitants of the Babylonian Station who called themselves the Elohim.”

“I would say that I’m not surprised.  The Americans have their Constitution to govern their people.  Well, obviously The Founding Fathers included the idea of democracy and power to the people in it.  As opposed to The Bible, which sounds more like a Hitlerian-Dictatorship-How-To Guide from hell,” answered Steven.  “But that’s the Old Testament and like I said, I didn’t read much of it.”

“Yeah, that’s a valid assessment.  It is always easier to govern a population if they believe themselves to be sheep instead of lions,” said Alexander.  “The truth is that the Elohim lived in the Facility for thousands of years and had a lot of abilities.  Some through technological means and some naturally as their body evolved over the ions.  To the primitive enclave of human populace that lived outside, it made them appear as gods,” he paused.  “Now for the real truth—” Alex halted as he was interrupted by the raised index finger of Ataninnuaq.  “Too soon?” Ataninnuaq nodded in acknowledgement.

“He is right,” continued Alexander.  “I sort of skipped a chapter here.  Right, what we managed to learn from the logs and our research is that the inhabitants of the Station immediately saw that the people on the outside were quickly becoming violent, disorganized, and in desperate need of guidance.  So just like the Muslim leaders in the past, seeing that the pig population was in trouble and that their subjects still refused to stop eating pork, they decided to add in their religion the belief that Allah would punish them if they continued doing so.  This proved to be very efficient.  The Elohim did the same thing, but six thousand years earlier.”

“So you are saying that the Bible was invented by people who had taken refuge in that Station?  And they wrote the Bible for the sole purpose of organizing the lives of the people on the surface?” asked Chrissy.

“Not exactly over night, but essentially, you are correct.  It probably took them thousands of years to make it to what it is today and since their last editorial review, all the old and new religions have translated it and written it to suit their current needs,” said Ataninnuaq.

“Given the level of understanding and the fact that they believed already in a set of myths and superstitions, it was the easiest and fastest way to proceed,” said Alexander, starting to become excited as the moment of the revelation approached.  “Like Ataninnuaq just told you, always according to the logs, it took almost a hundred years for the Bible and the structure of worship to be completed.  But by then, one individual had already started to rewrite it and modify it to place himself at the forefront of that new religion.  Over the centuries, he apparently decided to separate himself from the rest of his human flock, and to do so, he used a single healing device.  Once modified, it gave him something that would separate him completely from any other humans alive.  All he needed was to reprogram a single gene, a gene that since that time has remained inactive in all humans.  That gene is the immortality gene.”

Steven was the first to react.  If the inclined chair had been narrower, he would have fallen off.  He immediately recalled that night during his childhood when for the first time he awakened in a fright, nervous to the point of hysteria, his bed moist with sweat, imagining that one day he would be no more, and that everything and everyone would be lost to him forever.  That thought of complete emptiness filled both his heart and the space around him.  The thought that he would simply cease to exist was haunting his days and nights.  This doom still returned to torment him from time to time.  It was so intense on some occasions that when an acting professor in school asked him what would be powerful enough to make him cry on demand during a play, it was what he answered.

As the years passed, he had taken steps in the hope of one day being able to fight that condition and achieve a measure of immortality.  But today, he had been told that, if it had not been for the action of a single individual, he would have stopped aging naturally at one point in his life.  And if he was careful, he would get to live for an infinite amount of days with the woman he had just fallen in love with, the friends he had, the dreams he was pursuing.  The rage he was now feeling seemed almost too impossible to conceal and he looked at Chrissy’s face and was surprised to see a look of acknowledgement, but not the hatred he felt.

Alexander had patiently waited for the revelation to sink in.  He had seen the reaction in Steven’s face, the face of someone about to explode.  But he was not done yet.  The worst was still to come.  Steven, with his eyes bulging, didn’t say a word and listened instead.  “If it had only been for the immortality gene, humanity would have eventually managed to turn it back on.  At one point in history, they would have embarked on a quest to become immortals, like the gods.  But they couldn’t and the whole of humanity still can’t and won’t.”

Steven’s eyes were crying ‘Why’ and Alexander knew it.  “They made sure that the desire for immortality was weeded out of the equation.  First, by inhibiting our desires at the innate level to stop our own aging process.  Essentially, almost all humans are born with a fear of the unknown.  It casts a pall of anxiety which pushes us into the arms of religions and soothsayers and their made-up answers.  Second, due to the promise of eternal life post mortem in exchange for a set of finite deeds, a lot of people inhibit themselves from actively looking for it in real life because they feel that they don’t have any reason to,” Alexander lamented, thinking of the billions of dollars given to cults and religions every year.  “Come on, do you think that the richest people and the truly happy people in the world want to die?  Of course not, but they can’t help it, it’s not their fault.  Every fiber in their being tells them that death can’t be avoided.”

“Well, they say death and taxes, but when it comes to tax, people will take risk, skim and spare no expense to hire experts to evade paying them.  However, with death, they accept it willingly.  Some even go as far as welcome it, and even embrace it.  You see, humans were so beaten down over the centuries that they don’t have the courage to save their own lives anymore,” added Gill.  “With all the money that the rich waste daily, they could have found the cure for immortality long ago.  If they had the balls to do it.  Isaac Newton once said, I regret not being born in an age where humans are advanced enough to make immortality a reality.  Now, we are now in an age that can, but what is being done?  Fuck all!” added Gill, and then they understood why Alexander gave that part of the speech.

“No offense to the rest of the world,” Steven said, trying to be diplomatic despite the tone set by Gill.  “But, what I would like to know is, do we have the knowledge to turn it back on?”

“Yes, we do, but it can’t be done on a planetary scale anymore! Not with what is going on up there and certainly not with more than six billion more people than the Earth can take,” inserted Gill.

“You mean, the Earth is that overpopulated?” asked Chrissy.

“Hell, yeah,” answered Gill, still unable to calm down as long as they continued on that subject. “300 million people is the maximum number the Earth can take, that is, without depleting our resources.” Thanks to people fucking like rabbits and refusing birth control.

“I heard that once.  Apparently, Canada, Australia and a few others are the only one with the right number of people for the size of their lands,” Steven said.

“Absolutely true,” acknowledged Alexander.  “We have to take into account the animals and plants with which we share this world.  Because, although Christianity teaches that the animals are here only to serve, feed us, and have no greater value since they have no souls, it is not true.  This is not just our world!”

Normally, Steven would have looked at Chrissy to seek her approval and usually find it.  But this time, his brain was racing again, full of selfish ideas starting to take form in his mind.  Perhaps, they couldn’t reactivate the gene in everyone as nature intended.  But maybe they could make an exception for a couple of high levels?  Chrissy had seen the light in his eyes, but she felt that it was inappropriate to discuss her views on the matter in front of the others.

“Does the Vatican know about this?” asked Chrissy, realizing at the same time that she didn’t care much for the answer.

“If they are aware, we have yet to find out,” answered Alexander, thinking about it as improbable.

“The way some people like to explain it is that if they had known about it, there would be no point in revealing it to their followers or even to the circle of Cardinals.  I mean, even today, with their current level of knowledge and technology, they wouldn’t be able to reactivate the gene.  So, why confuse worshippers who already believe in a life after death?” said Gill.

“Even if they knew, we are all aware that they wouldn’t release that information and risk hurting their business,” commented Alexander. “If practicing Christians learned the truth, it would probably create an animosity toward God and incidentally, toward the Church that they wouldn’t be able to control.  You have to understand that in Canada, like a lot of other nations in Europe, promoters and contractors are already circling around the body of the dying Churches, like vultures, to make luxurious condos with the buildings belonging to the Vatican.  As time passes, more and more people replace the once mighty Churches’ teaching with rational ideas.  Like a man on his deathbed, the religious groups can’t afford additional stress or scandals. That would finish them off for good.”

Chrissy remained relatively silent during the exchange.  She always refrained herself from discussing religion and beliefs, knowing that it always created bitter debates.  Even the possibility of becoming immortal had never really crossed her mind, because she never had something in her life that she felt was worth trying to keep forever.  For her, growing old with someone had an air of romanticism and a sense of conclusion.

As if he had read her mind, Ataninnuaq looked at her and said, “One shouldn’t feel ashamed for not having the desire to become immortal here on Earth, or even for wishing to experience the human condition to its fullest,” and with that, he paused for an instant and continued, “Humans have been down for the count on that one since birth.  With our T65-A-A disabled and thousands of years of religion telling us that dying is only the first step toward entering a better place, how could people who live in poor conditions throughout their journey in the world wish for a never-ending life on Earth, especially if it means more of the same unfulfilling existence?”

Steven felt like a chicken placed inside a pressure cooker.  He was sure that the pressure in the room could now be measured using a scale.  No one spoke.  For Chrissy, the statement had the effect of sending her tumbling down memory lane to the day of her mother’s death.  The promise her mother had made to be reunited in paradise with her when Chrissy’s time came.  Even now, she couldn’t see herself abandoning the comfort accompanied by the belief in those things.

Everyone understood that it was time for a short recess, to let the air clear out and the information to sink in.