Why does this one remind me of the current troubles in the middle-east?
For the Future
In three hours, John Connor would be dead and the thought excited him.
“Raise your arms, please.”
Connor held his arms out at his sides, forming a perfect cross with his body as the Outer Guard carefully passed the sensor over him. Before Connor, the Citadel of Justice rose, gleaming white, into the grey Fourth Month sky. Inside, there would be more security checks, more tests, before he was allowed into the Peace Pavillion for the unveiling.
“Look this way, sir. Don’t blink.”
A red beam flashed across his eyes and for a moment, fear gripped Connor. What if he was detected? He would be dead before he took a step. The mission would fail.
“All clear, sir. Please proceed to the next checkpoint.”
Connor smiled calmly and nodded, but inside he felt a great rush of relief. He began to ascend the marble staircase as the next person stepped towards the security check.
Over four thousand people were expected, with millions more watching as Chairman Goodall unveiled the new Ganymede Revolution Memorial. Not only would it be the first time that an Okatu was memorialized, but it also marked the first time in fifty cycles that the Pavillion would be open to the public.
Even more historic was the fact that a Chairman would be there in person. Not even the oldest Terran would remember the last time that a Chairman had appeared live before a public assembly, but Connor knew. The story had been passed down among his people through the ages. Like all Okatu, Connor had first heard the tale as a youngling.
“The Terrans had sent their leader,” his sire had told him, “the one they called Chairman Morgan. This was at the end of the Second Galactic War, close to two hundred cycles ago, when there was greater suffering among us.
“Morgan’s soldiers brought the True People, the Okatu, into the Shrine of Jinja. He stood behind the altar to speak. It was a sacrilege to have anyone but the Elder speak from behind the altar, but the Terran did not care.
“He divided the people into two groups, females and younglings, and elder males. The elder males were sent outside while Morgan spoke to the rest. He said that because of the great mercy of his people, our entire race would not be destroyed. We would be allowed to live, to carry on our traditions. We would be removed from our home grounds and relocated to the Outer Worlds.
“While he was speaking, a great cry rose from outside, then the sound of shooting. The soldiers were killing the elder males. That was the Terrans’ ‘great mercy’.”
“State your name and age.”
“John Connor, age thirty-three.”
“Mary and Joe Connor.”
“Personal ID number?”
Once more fear gripped Connor’s heart. The Inner Gaurd, his eyes shielded behind a black visor, monitored his voice pattern and heart rate. This was the final checkpoint before entering the Peace Pavillion.
Connor maintained his heartrate at the Terran level as best he could, trying to reign in his emotions. The body before the Inner Guard was just a shell, a necessary trapping for Connor to gain access to the Pavillion. The real John Connor had been dead for three days, and in a sense, the Okatu who inhabited his body was dead, too.
_ I am a ghost in a ghost’s body, _ the new Connor had thought when he melded his essence with the dead Terran’s. He was a walking wraith, a dead man looking for a grave and what better grave than the Peace Pavillion on Terra.
His orders were simple. Infiltrate the unveiling of the Ganymede Memorial. Kill as many Terrans as possible before self-destructing. Show the galaxy that Okatu were willing to die for their freedom. That he was willing to die for his sires. For Kyra.
“All clear, sir.” The Inner Guard disengaged Connor from the monitor system. “Your heartrate’s a little high. You might want to see a doctor about that.”
Connor gave the guard his practiced smile.
“I’m just excited,” Connor said. “Excited to see the Chairman.”
“Well, enjoy yourself.” The guard grinned at Connor and waved him on. Connor’s smile faded as he turned, trying to push away the unexpected warmth he felt at the guard’s friendliness.
Connor had been warned about this, about the empathy he would experience.
“You will feel for them,” he had been told. “Because your heart is so full of love, you will want to see them as people and not enemies. You will want to understand them.”
And Connor did want to understand. Did that guard have a mate? Younglings?
On his home satellite of Callisto, Connor had met Terrans who had hated him, who openly cursed him and spat at his face. Those who had sympathized with the Okatu had treated Connor like an idealized pet, a savage beast that was unexpectedly noble. In all his life, Connor had never been treated as an equal by a Terran, nor did he ever expect to be. He wanted to be hated and reviled because that meant the Terrans feared him. That meant he could hurt them.
But in the three days that he had worn the dead Terran’s body, he had been smiled at by Terrans. He had been spoken to kindly and treated with respect. Connor had tried to convince himself that the Terrans were only responding to his disguise, but perhaps there was some good in them. Perhaps they were worthy of life. But if that was true, how could such good beings have made his people suffer?
Kyra’s face came to Connor’s thoughts, his beautiful mate swelling with their first youngling. She was so perfect, in body and spirit. It was she who first said to him, “We must put aside the hate. We cannot change the past, but we can protect the future.” But she had been wrong, so tragically wrong. No Terran could be trusted, not after what they had done. Connor clenched his hands into
fists, disgusted with himself. How could he even think that any Terran was good?
“Mister?” A hand tugged at his pants leg. A youngling, a Terran girl, stared up at him, her brown lips slightly down-turned. A red balloon with Chairman Goodall’s face on it was held firmly in her other hand.
“Mister, why you crying?”
Connor touched his cheek. It was wet with tears.
“Don’t cry, mister.” The girl smiled and held the balloon up to him. “Here. You have this.” Connor stared at the girl, not knowing what to do.
“Take it,” she insisted. “Don’t cry.” Before Connor could protest, she pressed her hand into his and let go of the string. Instinctively, Connor grabbed for the string, but he was too slow. The balloon slipped from both of their hands and floated towards the white, domed ceiling. It brushed the laser net at twenty feet and popped with a loud bang. Both Connor and the girl jumped.
“I’m sorry,” said Connor. The girl just laughed.
“Shoshanna!” An elder female appeared behind the child and pulled the girl quickly into her arms. “How many times have I told you not to run off?” The mother glared at Connor before hurrying away with her child. As they disappeared into the crowd, the girl waved “good-bye” to Connor.
“You will want to love them,” he had been told, “because your heart is full of love. That is why we chose you for this mission. Your love is such that you would give your life for others. You will want to understand them, but remember: have they ever understood us? Have they shown us anything other than hate? You must never forget your love: your love for the True People. For your family unit. You must never forget.” No, he would never forget. No one would ever forget, not even the innocent.
“I’m sorry,” Connor repeated, but the girl was gone. No one was listening.
“And without further ado, I present Chairman Goodall!”
The applause was deafening as the old man appeared, circled by guards but without his personal shield. He was the Chairman of the People, he had told the press, why should he hide from them? Government should not be about fear, he had also said, nor should it be about protecting only the majority’s interests. All peoples, Terran and Okatu, should be heard.
In some ways, Chairman Goodall was the Terrans’ greatest leader. He was a visionary, a humanitarian, and a war hero. But Connor knew him by only one name, a name which roused fear and anger in all Okatu: the Butcher of Iranon.
When he was only eighteen cycles, Goodall had fought in the Fourth Galactic War, but it was during the Ganymede Revolution that he earned his infamy. After five years of fighting, Commander of Operations Goodall ended the revolution with the push of a single button.
No living thing remained on Iranon after the explosion. Even fifty cycles later, the radiation was such that no creature dared venture onto the charred land. The action was deemed “necessary” and “justified”, the only way to get “those damned Okatu” to admit defeat.
In the face of such madness, the Okatu surrendered.
“My fellow Terrans,” said the Chairman, “I bid you welcome on this most historic of days!”
Again the crowd roared. Connor remained silent, his eyes never leaving the Chairman’s face.
“Today, we commemorate those who died fifty years ago. Today, we honor their sacrifice as we turn towards the future!”
And what was that future? Okatu and Terran living together, side by side, as if history meant nothing?
Connor could see Kyra’s face, full of hope and promise.
“Why shouldn’t they live among us?” she had said. “Why shouldn’t we live among them?” And why not? Callisto, the frigid satellite the Okatu had been forced to live on, turned out to be rich in ores that the Terrans’ desired. Of course Terrans would want to live there, even with Okatu there as well.
Okatu were invited to return to Terra as well, but who could afford to make the journey? And did it matter that out of every hundred Okatu who applied for a transit visa, only five would receive them? Of course not. This was progress. This was reconciliation.
“What is history, my friends?” the Chairman continued. “Is it a list of tragedies and grievances? Is it an excuse for war and bloodshed? I would like to say, ‘No’, but what has our history with the Okatu brought us? Only pain. Only sorrow.”
An unexpected spike of hate pierced Connor’s heart. Kill. He wanted to kill all of them right now. The guard, the child and her mother, that damned Butcher of Iranon: all Terrans deserved to die. How dare that killer, of all people, speak of pain and sorrow? How dare that murderer be alive when Kyra, his beloved Kyra . . .
No. Connor had to hold his anger in check. Wait for the unveiling.
“When we first encountered the Okatu, we welcomed them to our world with open arms. And they returned our hospitality with war. They beat us down. Subjugated us. They took control of our planet and tried to break our spirit. But they couldn’t. They could kill us, but they could never break us.”
A feeble cheer rose which quickly silenced itself. Even Connor could tell that the Chairman was not speaking with pride.
“With this same spirit, we fought back. We reclaimed our planet, even forced the Okatu to the far corners of our galaxy. With this great spirit, we crushed their culture and decimated their people. In the end, we won. We killed more of them than they killed of us.”
This time there were no cheers, just a somber silence.
“That is our shared history, but it does not have to be our shared future. Even now, despite the over two hundred years of hate and violence, there is still hope.”
Behind the Chairman, a vid-screen flashed to life and Connor gasped with the crowd. It was a live stream from Callisto. Standing side by side were the Terran Liason to Callisto, and the Okatu Elder, Heiwa. Applause filled the Peace Pavillion and Connor found that he was clapping, too. Ashamed, he forced his hands apart and held them at his sides.
“This is the vision of the future!” the Chairman cried above the applause.
“This is our vision of peace!”
And it was all a lie. There would be no true peace, not with the Terran raids on Okatu lands. Not with the bombs and the fighting in the already ruined streets. Not when Terran supremacists were calling for the extermination of all Okatu. Not when they had killed his Kyra.
She had been marching with the other females, both Okatu and Terran, rallying for female rights. Rallying for peace. Connor had watched from the side, pride growing in him as Kyra passed. Their eyes met and they shared a smile. He saw Kyra touch her pregnant swelling and then the world exploded.
There were screams and heat and “Death to all Okatu” and Connor could feel blood dripping down his face, but his only thoughts were for Kyra as he slipped into darkness.
When he awoke in the hospital, he learned that Terran supremacists had attacked the rally. He learned that Kyra was dead.
Across Callisto vid-screens, the Butcher of Iranon promised that the perpetrators would be caught and dealt with severely. But months passed, and nothing happened. There was no justice. There was no punishment. The Terrans had forgotten. But not Connor.
“We cannot return life to those who have passed,” the Chairman said to the crowd, “but we can ensure that they are never forgotten. We can ensure that no more will die in vain.”
That was why Connor was at the Peace Pavillion. To sacrifice himself for the sake of his people, to show that they would not suffer in silence. He would die so no more would die in vain.
After leaving the hospital, after burying Kyra, Connor had sought the company of likeminded Okatu, males who would not back down from the Terrans, who would not accept their meaningless treaties. They would forge a better future for all Okatu by freeing them from Terran rule. If that meant some of the group would die, so be it: better death than a life of subjugation. Better to be blind than to see the shining lie of a shared future.
Behind the Chairman, a red, shrouded form rose from the marble white floor. It was time for the unveiling of the memorial statue. It was time for Connor to fulfill his duty.
“And now, my fellow Terrans, my good Okatu, we honor our fallen fathers. We honor our future together!”
A box with a single button on it was presented to the Chairman. Connor’s breath caught in his throat. After a second’s hesitation, the Chairman pushed the button.
The red shroud burst in a bloom of sparks. The crowd gasped in wonder, then abruptly grew silent as the statue was revealed. Emotion raced through Connor, but he couldn’t tell if it was anger or wonder.
A Terran and an Okatu stood side by side, each reaching towards the sky, the Terran raising his hand, the Okatu raising a tentacle. The hand and tentacle held aloft, together, a laurel of peace. Each was stepping forward, as if setting off together on an unknown path.
For a long time, not a sound greeted the bronze pair. Then a single, young laugh broke the silence, followed by the sound of small hands clapping. Connor turned towards the sounds.
It was the girl, perched on her mother’s shoulders, clapping and laughing. The same hands that had tried to cheer Connor applauded the statue. The same face that had smiled at him smiled at the vision of peace.
Connor brought his hands up. He brought them together. He clapped. Together, Connor and the girl clapped and then the rest of the crowd joined them. From the vid-screen, cheering burst forth from Callisto. Even the Butcher of Iranon was smiling.
It was time.
Tears streamed down Connor’s face, and he knew that if the girl were near him, if she had another balloon, she would offer it to him. She would try to ease his pain just as Kyra would have, too. Could the past be forgiven by a single token of kindness?
Conner closed his eyes. He could still stop. He could abort the mission and return in shame and the girl and her mother and the smiling guard would all live. The Terran supremacists wouldn’t stop their bombings and his people would still be living in squalor, pushed off the land that was once theirs, pushed off by Terran industrialists. None of the Okatu’s pain would end, but at least one girl would live. At least she would have a future even if his own youngling never had a chance. Wasn’t that enough?
No future could be bright when the present was intolerable: not for Okatu. Not for Terrans. History could not be erased by a child’s smile.
Connor exhaled. His true form ripped through the Terran husk as he reached his fore-tentacles towards the Chairman, his aft-tentacles wrapping around the people standing behind him.
Cheering turned to screams. Chairman Goodall’s face became a mask of terror and confusion and Connor kept his eyes locked on the old man’s, not wanting to see the fear in the girl’s eyes, not wanting to see her die.
The Inner Guard who had smiled at Connor was shooting, all the guards were shooting, but it was too late. It was too late for all of them.
“For all Okatu!” Connor cried. “For the future!”