James Fitzhugh sat motionless before the black screen in the teleconferencing center of his underground headquarters, his thoughts mirroring those of his cousin’s. Although he had been raised from birth to believe thwarting the mission of the Star Guides and their precious Transition were his duty and birthright, Hightower’s latest unilateral act had increased his distaste for the whole matter. Unfortunately, he had too many others besides himself to consider before making any life altering decisions. More, he needed to understand, without benefit of the family’s slant, what this Transition really entailed, and how it would or would not affect himself, his family and humanity in general. He even left himself open to the possibility the family’s meticulously created plans really did have merit and were beneficial to all concerned.
Opening his web browser, he began what would prove to be a massive search for information dealing with this so-called Transition. He rubbed his temple, frowning at the volume of data his search produced. Ordering another pot of coffee, he resolved himself to a lengthy, tedious search for the facts, which necessitated wading through endless pages of opinions. His technical team was already looking for military strategies, so this search fell on his own shoulders. He lacked the expertise to narrow down search results, making the task even more daunting.
A light tap on the door signaled the coffee’s arrival. He leapt from his desk like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver. Liquid splashed onto the carpet as he poured some into the waiting mug without waiting for his assistant to put down the tray. The young man bit his lip to suppress a smile. He knew Fitzhugh liked his coffee but didn’t typically attack its bearer.
The old bird’s got a bug up his butt today. That’s for sure. He thought as he focused his attention on a civil war scene hanging behind the desk. Catching movement beneath the painting, he saw Fitzhugh had resumed his seat and was speaking.
“Have my meals brought in for the next couple of days. I won’t be leaving the office. Too much to do…” his voice trailed off as he turned his full attention back to the laptop screen.
“Yessir.” He exited with customary silence though he could have slammed the door and Fitzhugh wouldn’t have noticed. He was lost in cyberspace.
A few hours later, and no closer to the answers he sought, he groaned as he poured the last drops of coffee from the decanter into his cup. A knock on the door indicated the arrival of lunch, saving him from having to order another pot. Welcoming the break after hours of tedium, Fitzhugh mentally recapped the little he’d discovered so far. Only by painstakingly weeding out endless pages published by weirdos and crackpots, doomsayers and religious fanatics, had he garnered a few pieces of potentially useful information.
What he had discovered was that people called “Star Guides” were tasked with helping humanity find their way to the high road in spite of their tendency to behave…well, like humans. After thousands of years of poisoning the earth and murdering each other, humans were expected to realize the error of their ways and move towards repairing the damage they’d wrought and to start behaving more Divinely.
“Seriously?” he thought. “Do they really need us to stand in their way? All we should have to do is to stand back, wait until they tear themselves apart and just pick up the pieces. What’s the big deal here? And more, what is it I’m missing? Why would my ancestors spend over six centuries manipulating birth records, successions, and elections to stop this Transition thing which doesn’t have a prayer of succeeding?”
As he ate the turkey and swiss on rye on autopilot, he tried to make sense of what he could only see as pure, unadulterated nonsense. Even worse was how Hightower could be so deadly serious in his belief that these “Star Guide” people actually had a chance of changing thousands of years of human nature in a few, brief years unless they were stopped now. If his recent actions were any indication, he rather relished using any means he deemed necessary. Fitzhugh wished he could call his cousin to discuss what he’d found, but knew he needed to stick with their plan to talk again in 48 hours. Who knows? By then, Nathan might have, in his own way, reached the same conclusion and they’d use the call to determine the best way to extricate themselves from the entire mess.
Setting the sandwich aside, he turned his attention back to the laptop on the desk. Maybe if he traced this back to its beginnings, it might start to make more sense. Touching a few keys on the keyboard, he was startled to find his search took him to a page praising the Salem witch trials as the last intelligent task performed by humanity in hundreds of years. “Talk about weirdos and crackpots!” he thought as he modified his search parameters to bring up a page which would, with any luck, be less emotional and more factual.
Becoming more and more discouraged as he squinted bleary, sleep-deprived eyes to bring the computer screen back into focus, he was ready to give up the search. Promising himself the next link would be the last he clicked, he set his expectations on low. What he got, instead, was the answer he’d been seeking. A rather simple web page loaded quickly, ...