Islands of Dark Miracles - Preview



Islands of Dark Miracles

Morgan’s Knot – A Serial Fantasy

Episode VII

A woozy Zepallo gazed around the restricted ward in which he was the only patient. The sheets were white. The ceiling, walls, and floor were white. The orbs illuminating the room in soothing pools of cool blue spilling across the foot of the bed, banks of monitoring systems, and the floor just inside the door, cast the rest of the room into soft gray twilight. The effect reinforced the clinically sterile ambiance and grated on his testy disposition.

He struggled to sit up, as The Doctor rushed into the infirmary, a brilliant and determined renegade scientist, with a shock of white hair falling over a pallid complexion, dark deep-set eyes, and a white smock that almost brushed hygienic white booties covering his shoes.

The Dark Lord held up the bandaged stump of his right arm, “So our experiment bears fruit?”

“We are fortunate that the Masters chose you to father the next generation. Although we only have three specimens that qualify as a complete success, we have plenty of spare parts,” replied The Doctor with clipped hints of a German accent.

“You can harvest a hand, my hand?”

“Of course, it will be your hand, with your fingerprints. The only difference is that your new hand will be young and it will develop the strength of a young hand.” The Doctor smiled, “and we’ve added some new…options that you might find useful.”

Zepallo scowled.

The Doctor continued, with due respect but unabated, “The only frustration is that our ability to generate new life on an accelerated schedule leads to rapid aging. We’re working on the problem but our first generation is years ahead of what we consider a normal chronological scale. Your hand will suffer the same progression.”

“So, the hand will have to be replaced again?”

“Yes. We’re estimating ten to fifteen years.”

“How quickly are my progeny aging?”

“Our latest calculations indicate that they are growing at approximately three times the normal rate. They’ll mature at four or five, certainly before the year is out, and they’ll have the size, weight, mental capacity, and physical prowess of a legal adult before the age of seven. At twenty-five, they’ll qualify for retirement.”

“What of the next generation?”

“We’re confident that our success rate will increase dramatically and, through a manipulation of the genes that control aging, we hope their maturation will be slowed to about double the normal rate.”

“How many new citizens might we hope for?”

“In the next group, I would expect, perhaps, one hundred.”

“And the next?”

“We’re anticipating ten times that number,” replied The Doctor, with a confident smile, “but, in spite of learning and adapting over the last few years, there are challenges to be met.”

“And each will be exactly the same as the next?”

“They’ll be identical…carbon copies of our Dark Lord.”

The patient settled back into his pillows, as The Doctor inserted a hypodermic into the intravenous tube feeding into the Zepallo’s veins. The chemicals would take effect within a few moments and the operation could begin.

“This process could conceivably continue indefinitely. The seeds have been sewn for an endless source of reliable, dedicated, and lethal agents to lead the planet to unification under the Dark Powers…”


Chapter 2

Adrian hovered a foot above the ground, eyes closed, hands resting on his knees, palms open to the sky. It was cool in the shade of the huge oak tree draped over the edge of the vegetable garden. A gentle wind wafted in off the ocean tussling the blond hair, hanging in soft waves around his tanned face, like the lazy branches of a willow tree…moving with the breeze and then falling back against his stillness.

The words of his three-hundred-year old self kept echoing through his head, “Life is filled with joy and wonder. It is everywhere and in everything. It’s in every child’s smile, every animal that you encounter, every day that ends without a battle, and every calm moment that you will enjoy. Looking back on it all, I’d say that you should be thankful for every normal day. Those days when nothing happens, when you could be bored, when things are confined to everyday routines, those are most precious.”

A smile rippled through is mind. The last three months had been calm, allowing time with the people he loved the most. He could honestly say that he found days when he had been bored, in spite of endless chores around the House of the Four Seasons, his work with Alius and the texts at Ponte’s observatory, and days when he got to play in the sunshine, like a normal boy, with his friends. The wound on his chest healed enough to dive with Raffe and help with the construction of the first dome. In spite of missing most of the final semester of classes the previous year and having to make up the work, he had enjoyed his first real summer vacation since he left the little house on the bay.

His Mother told him that the tailors would be shutting down the seamstress shop within the next month. Once everyone was fitted, they would only need to repair or replace diving suits that were damaged or outgrown. Almost everyone on the island completed their training with Soule and Amy and the anticipation of exploring and joining this new undersea world inspired the entire population.

The first dome would serve as the primary interface connecting the dry world with the wet. It would also be the new, though temporary, home for the upper school students, because the old school building on the ridge was bursting at the seams with students overflowing every classroom, flocking into the canteen in ravenous waves during extended lunch hours, even packing the playground and the athletic fields during breaks and after classes. The Headmaster, Dr. Carringsworth, demanded that the first undersea dome be dedicated to providing facilities for the senior school to relieve the congestion. Thus, all of the classes for the upperclassmen, which now included Adrian, Alius, and the twins, were transferred out of the old building.

The new classrooms were completed the day before the start of classes, although some had yet to receive the finishing touches or final cleaning, but each had an open view of the sea. Most of the students felt that the younger children should have been moved into the new dome, allowing the older children to finish their schooling in the building to which they had grown accustomed. It was a change that disrupted tradition and, although most young people rebel at such things, they still sought to use any change to their advantage in their eternal quest to rile the elders.

~

Each evening after dinner, Adrian joined the twins to watch the international news on the messenger in their bedroom…he, for the World view, and the twins for a continuing assignment from their political science teacher, Mrs. Hammon, who insisted that her students stay attuned to the political, economic, and social changes happening across the globe. She was known for her pop quizzes posing in depth questions on the latest maneuverings in Washington or Peking, the current political attitude of the oil producing countries, or the impact of an election in some minor country…and this year, they were to pay special attention to the effects of the children’s campaign against war, against the savagery that adults wage upon each other for reasons beyond any child’s comprehension.

Adrian turned to his cousins, “Do you realize that, other than terrorists who prey on common citizens for their own weird political purposes, there aren’t any wars happening anywhere in the world?”

Megan piped up, “I think they have you to thank for that!”

“Oh, I can’t take the credit or the blame, I just spoke the truth and the children of the world did the rest.”

“It’s too bad that President Bartlett can’t run for another term. He was a good president and a true world leader. I wonder who will take his place?”

“The election is two weeks off and the political reporters say it’s dead even,” said Molly.

“I wonder what he’ll do after he leaves office,” pondered Adrian.

“Did you feel that the guy we see on the messenger, was the person you met?”

Adrian smiled, “He’s shorter than he appears on the news but much stronger and even more in command than when he’s in public.”

“Did you like him?” asked Megan.

“Yeah, I did. I thought he was extremely intelligent and polite, genuine in an old-fashioned sort of way. He listened to our tale and didn’t act as if we were just children telling stories and he does have a sense of humor. I’d like to show him the island, especially now that we have the first dome completed. Who knows, maybe after he leaves office, we could convince him to come for a visit.”

“Yeah, like the Secret Service is going to place the security of an ex-president in the hands of a bunch of children and people they can’t trace, on an island that doesn’t show up on their radar, let alone their maps!” laughed Megan. “That’ll never happen.”

“Do you know how to get in touch with him?” asked Molly.

“Sure,” replied Adrian. “I know his personal Internet address.”

“Then you should invite him before he leaves office. I’ll bet he’d come!”

“I might just do that…just to prove a point to your Mrs. Hammon. She’d have to give you a passing grade if you brought a president to class,” smirked Adrian.

“That might be the only way to get a good grade in her class!” laughed Molly.

“I want to take your class,” said Megan.

“Yeah, me too.”

“I’m going to be a hard grader because I want all of you to grasp the potential of the Powers in everybody’s lives. You don’t have to be a seer or a Keeper to find new ways to use this energy. I think most people on the island have a vague understanding of how it works and they enjoy the benefits but what if everyone really understood it? Then we’d have hundreds of different viewpoints seeing things that none of us might have considered,” said Adrian.

The two seers had been tasked with teaching a class together on The Powers. After consulting with Ester and Mary, who knew far more of their history than anyone else, other than Orana, they decided to confine their lessons to those adventures that might serve as examples for the rest of the children to use in their everyday lives. Dadeus and Ponte were working on a new curriculum that involved the use of the Powers with marine life in the ocean but the seer’s class took a far more human approach.

Their first lesson generated more than a bit of trepidation. They were still students with the other children for the rest of each day but they were the instructors during this one hour and wanted to give their friends something more than they received in most of their other classes.

After long discussions, they decided to start with something that Shambala said before Adrian’s speech to the United Nations. “We teach our children that if you truly believe that you can do something…say fly…you might not have the ability now but your belief will drive your curiosity and that will lead you to find a way to make it real. Taking it to its finest level, belief is enough to create reality.”

On the first day of classes, Adrian and Alius allowed their students to enter the classroom, which was on the third level, before levitating through the door behind them, flying over their heads, and hovering above a small riser at the front of the classroom.

The students were awestruck, standing motionless, their mouths agape.

The young teachers descended to the floor and Alius said, with complete confidence, “Why don’t you sit down and we’ll tell you about The Powers?”

The smiling students took their chairs without a word.

Adrian stepped to the front of the little stage, “Our demonstration wasn’t intended to show off our powers for your amusement. It was my personal reminder that, until a year and half ago, I didn’t know that I had any special talents or that I might be called on to do the things that I’ve been asked to do. I was a normal kid, just like every one of you.”

He looked around the room at the students, who were enthralled with his every word. “The point is that each of us has a unique set of powers and talents. Every one of you is capable of doing at least one thing that I couldn’t possibly accomplish and, yet, they’ve become second nature and you do them with ease.”

Pointing to Eloise, a pudgy girl with dark curly hair, a pale complexion, and lips that curled into a most beautiful smile, he said, “Eloise, you can play the flute. You can make absolutely beautiful music. That’s a talent that none of the rest of us has. And Hector,” He pointed to a small boy with red hair, blues eyes, and an impish grin, “You can run faster than any other kid on the island. No one can catch you. Almy, you get the best grades in the school. The rest of us try to complete but you always come out on top.”

“Do you see what I’m saying?” He paused. “Each of you has talents and abilities that make you unique and special. Be proud of those gifts, work hard to develop them, and use them well.

“We have no proof…but we believe that some of the things that we’ve learned to do, could be done by anyone. Some of these seemingly magical talents are not confined to those who are born a seer or study to become a Keeper.”

Alius interrupted, “We talked and talked about how to present our view of The Powers to you in a way that would make sense and help you to reach for your own potential. We agreed that our lessons should be based on something that a friend of ours told us…and that was, that you might not be able to accomplish everything that you dream of doing, at least not now. But, if you truly believe, that energy and determination will lead you to pursue your dreams and, perhaps someday, allow you to find the path to fulfillment. She said, ‘Taking this idea to its finest level, belief is enough to create reality’.”

With that, Simian strode into the room, dressed in a beautiful yellow sash with a floral pattern that wrapped around his upper torso. He wore blue pantaloon pants made from the same material that Sara and Morgan bought from his little stall in Jamaica, during their trip to the Island of Children, and bright pink shoes that curled up at the toes. His little glasses hung precariously on the end of his broad nose and his goatee seemed whiter than before he returned to Jamaica, after Adrian’s speech.

The old Jamaican carried a bundle of goose feathers in a rough woven shoulder bag, which leaked white fluff that floated to the floor, trailing a wispy veil in his wake. He smiled at the students, “Good afternoon, I’m pleased to be here with you!”

Alius took Simian’s arm and said, “Many of the things that we’ve learned came through the instruction of our friend Simian, a master seer from Jamaica.”

Simian turned to the students with a huge smile, “I want to talk with you about the power that lives inside seemingly inanimate things. There’s energy in everything around us…the trees, the rocks, the ocean…” He turned and waved at the spectacular view of sunlight streaming through the water behind him. “The ocean pulses with its own rhythm. Certainly, the tides are governed by the movements of the moon and the waves are the product of the winds but, if you look beyond the obvious scientific explanations, it is the home, the origin for all life. Our ancient ancestors crawled out of the sea, onto the shore, where they changed and evolved over the eons to become us!

Everything has its own energy and we’re affected by the energies around us. Each of you gives off a charge that is unique to you. We call it an aura, an energy field that surrounds everything and everyone…but that is another lecture!”

He pulled a large white feather from his bag and held it on the flattened palm of his hand. “This feather has no weight.”

He blew hard and the feather leapt into the air and spiraled to the floor. “It is in its nature to fly!”

Retrieving the feather, he held it up to the class. “This feather lifted a heavy bird into the air and carried it for hundreds, if not, thousands of miles. It is strong and sturdy, ingeniously crafted to flex in several directions without breaking, and perfectly curved to provide lift. It wants to fly, even if there is no wind.”

He concentrated on the white feather in his hand and, slowly, it began to flutter, rising several inches above his palm to fan his face, before returning to rest on his fingertips. The students stared in wonder.

Simian smiled and said softly, “It was not my energy that made it fly. That energy already exists inside the feather. I merely gave it permission.”

Everyone laughed, as Simian moved from one desk to the next, plucking feathers from his bag and handing one to each student. He returned to the riser at the front of the classroom, with a wink to Adrian and Alius. “I want each of you to hold your feather on the tips of your fingers and then blow on it gently, give it just enough air to provide lift.”

The students puffed at their feathers, which flew into the air, a blizzard spinning down to the floor, as if some giant goose had fluttered through the room, shedding soft downy snowflakes.

“Now let’s see whether each of you can allow the feather to show its true character. Don’t try to make it fly…allow it to use the air. Hold it on your palm. Concentrate on the fact that it wants to fly. It’s in its nature and the only thing holding it back is your hand. Set it free!”

Most of the feathers spiraled to the floor but every child picked them up and tried again and again. There were fierce stares, as they concentrated on the essence of their feathers but none showed any frustration, when the experiment did not supply instant gratification.

Simian spotted Eloise at the back of the room and her feather floating just above the palm of her hand, as she whispered and coaxed it into the air. “Ah, I see that one of you has found the magic. The young lady with the dark hair in the back, everyone look, she’s done it!”

The rest of the students gathered around the flautist. “I thought that maybe there was a musical tone that would fit with my feather, so I started humming to it, trying to find the right vibration, and suddenly it started to rise, all by itself!”

There were comments and whispers throughout the group, “If she can do it, then I can too!” and several more made their feathers fly, before the young tutors had to dismiss the class for the day.

Simian raised his hands for the attention of the students, “This is a preliminary demonstration. With some practice, more of you will master this challenge. I’ll come back and we’ll learn a bit more the next time.”

The students applauded and reluctantly moved on to their next classes.

Adrian and Alius hugged their friend, “That was brilliant!” said Alius, “I think we were both reminded of our hesitation and disbelief when you first taught us about levitation. We really appreciate your help.”

“Ah, it is my pleasure,” laughed the little Jamaican. “What’s brilliant is that the authorities in this school have allowed you to conduct this class! The rest of the students will certainly benefit from the things that you’ve experienced.”

“How’s Sammy?” asked Adrian.

“He’s fine. In fact, he’s at the observatory, as we speak. He has a long list of questions for the Professor and Nanchez, and now Dadeus, about using the vectors to supply electrical power. Although our country is modern in many ways, there are many poor people who live in conditions that are shameful at best. They lack power and fresh clean water, let alone a sewer. He wants to construct a small experimental network to help those people.”

“That’s wonderful,” commented Alius. “The Powers should benefit the common people, not the rich corporations!”

“I believe that he’ll be successful but we’ll have to find a way to construct this network without raising the suspicion of the authorities. They might wonder why shanties have lighting without being connected to their grid and accuse these poor people of stealing their precious electricity.”

“I can see the problem,” said Adrian. “It was hard for me to believe that orbs could provide light without being connected to wires or batteries or whatever, that cars could move along the paths without proper engines, or that the three-dimensional images we see on the messengers are not available in the rest of the world. All of it is still rather amazing.”

“I agree,” said Simian. “Considering some of what we’ve learned from Dadeus and the other Keepers, I might guess that we’re only using a small part of the potential of the Crystals.”

Adrian laughed, “As Ponte always says, ‘There’s always more to learn about the Powers!’.”

Simian smiled knowingly and placed his gnarled hand on the young seer’s shoulder, “We all know he speaks the truth.”

~

Zepallo inspected his new hand. It was young. The skin was taut and unmarked. The long slender fingers extended and flexed smoothly, his knuckles a series of well-lubricated gears, and it was a youthful mirror image of his left hand. He was amazed by the thin red line around his arm, above the wrist, that marked the junction between his old body and his new appendage.

The Doctor wrapped a bandage around the healing wound, leaving the hand free and unbound. “It will take several weeks to regain your normal strength and coordination. You’ll begin your therapy this afternoon and you’ll also learn how to use several new devices that we’ve incorporated for your added…protection.”

“I don’t understand.”

“For several years, I’ve been working on a personal weapon that could channel the Powers through the human body. After all, every function in our bodies is controlled by electrical impulses and they are the result of chemical reactions. The energy of the Crystals is very much the same as the energy that controls us. I’ve merely adjusted the frequency.”

He took the Dark Lord’s new hand and extended the index finger, pointing it towards an eye chart on the far wall. He pressed the first knuckle and the tip of his finger glowed the bluish white of a superheated flame. An electrical charge surged across the room, with a piercing crackle, shredding the paper into tiny fragments that showered the shiny floor in flames.

“You’ll learn to use this by merely thinking about it. Obviously, we would rather that you not indulge your curiosity, until we have had a chance to work with you and to fine tune the instrument.”

Zepallo stared at The Doctor. “That’s incredible. I felt the surge flow down my arm and out through my finger!”

“I thought you might enjoy the…convenience.”

“You said ‘new devices.’ What other options did you add?”

“Well, the other obvious improvement is that we’ve made some modifications to the tendons and ligaments that will allow your right hand to be several times stronger than your left,” smiled The Doctor. “Please do not experiment with it yet. Just as you learned to use your original hand and developed your strength and coordination through a series of repetitive demands over time, we will teach you to reach an optimum level in short order.”

“I’ll try to be patient…but tell me about the charge. I want to understand it.”

The Doctor smiled modestly, “As my modest demonstration showed, it’s very similar in intensity to the blast that you might fire from your ring, with a range of perhaps twelve to fifteen meters but, in my experiments, I predict that, when it is used in close combat, it will leave no mark on the skin.”

“That could be very useful.”

“A charge of this magnitude, applied to the chest would result in violent fluctuations of the rhythm of the heart muscles or total paralysis, without leaving any evidence on the surface.”

They both inspected the raised hand with a reverence reserved for a magnificent piece of sculpture. The Dark Lord stared at his physician, “I want to see my offspring.”

The Doctor smiled again, “I’ve been wanting to share them with you for quite some time but I felt that it would be better, after they completed some of their initial training, and…your mere presence would disrupt our research. Now, I believe that time has come. Are you feeling up to a short stroll?”

Zepallo put his feet on the floor and stood up. He wavered for a moment as he adjusted his sense of balance, which suffered as a result of the anesthetics and his confinement. He arched his back and stretched, before placing his new hand on The Doctor’s shoulder, “I’ve shown great restraint since the program’s inception, because you must learn how to develop the children to achieve their potentials but I must admit that I’ve been anxious to see the results. Shall we go?”

The doctor took his patient’s elbow to guide him through the sterile white hallways of the complex that had been nestled into the corals beneath an uncharted island in the Savu Sea along the southern archipelago of Indonesia. Research, development, and living quarters were attached to a central ring encircling a hub that contained a giant Black Crystal. To satellites that photographed every square inch of the planet as they swept through their orbits every ninety minutes, this facility appeared an integral part of a corral reef.

The Doctor said, “We chose this spot because it is easy to maintain the necessary temperatures for our production, without excessive cooling or heating. As we learned, pearls and human embryos require similar conditions. Our systems filter and purify millions of gallons of salt water, which provides a perfect medium, and our test facility is kept at a constant 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the human body.”

He tapped a code into a tiny messenger on a wall and the door slid back to reveal a glass tunnel to a darkened circular control station with a three-hundred and sixty-degree view. Clear aqua water sloshed around the glass sphere and thousands of bulbous tubes, each pulsing with an iridescent green glow swayed with the gentle rhythm of sea grasses in a modest current. The Doctor waved his hand around the circle at the giant incubator. “At the moment, these embryos are in various stages of development and, when we’ve perfected our program, we can easily expand to produce ten times this number.”

“And all of these came from a small sample that was taken from me all those years ago?”

“Yes, we’ve replicated your DNA many times. That information is introduced into a fertilized egg that is grown in perfect conditions in our facility. After nine months, a child is born and moved to our nursery. They are cared for by trained nurses and gradually introduced to our educational program, which is still under development. As I said earlier, their progress is rather astonishing, maturing at three times the normal rate. Our first subjects would be about twelve or thirteen now. As you will see they are not like most twelve-year olds.”

“I believe this qualifies as a miracle, a dark miracle.”

They walked back to the corridor and turned into another glass tunnel open to sunlight streaming down through the sea. The two men entered an observation deck above a pod that had been constructed for the youngsters. Their vantage point offered an overhead view of the living quarters, a small classroom with multiple messengers, laboratory equipment, a library of books, and a large gymnasium that rose two stories, with ropes, wires, and climbing walls, as well as an interface to the open water.

Five divers emerged from the ocean and walked up a shallow ramp. The two larger divers were obviously instructors. The shorter three, although well-muscled for their age, pulled off their helmets to reveal identical features. Long dark hair framed the pale skin of a slender face. High cheekbones made intense blue eyes appear recessed slightly into their skulls. A fierce, ominous glare sparkled in the shadows beneath their eyebrows as each stopped to stare at the darkened observation pod.

Zepallo’s jaw dropped open. He recognized those eyes, those faces from a lifetime of staring into a mirror. They were exactly as he had been when he was twelve…physically…and he could feel their energies probing his own. “What do you call them?”

“Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.”

“Are they truly identical?”

“Physically, yes, but each has a slightly different personality. Alpha is the first to step forward, when there’s any sort of challenge. Beta is a bit more standoffish…he likes to size up the situation, before deciding on a course of action. Where Alpha might rush into a hasty decision, Beta would have thought the problem through and come up with a reasonable response. Gamma is quiet, a bit withdrawn, and far more emotional and organized than his brothers.”

“Considering that they all came from the same genes, they have lived together and received similar treatment and instruction, why would they be different in their manner?”

“One simple answer might be sibling rivalry. Put any group of subjects together in a confined space, especially under adverse conditions, and they’ll establish, without prompting, their pecking order. Who is the strongest, who is the weakest, and who claims those places in between? It is the law of nature and each adapts to their role.”

Zepallo stared at the clones. Each of them an exact copy, yet each was different, unique. He considered his past and realized that he could have been any of them. Alpha, standing ramrod straight, his hands moving as he talked…from his manner, it appeared that he was giving instructions. Beta was relaxed, his weight rested on his right leg, while his left was slightly bent, his foot tapping absently. He leaned back and hooked his thumbs into a strap around the waist of his diving suit, with a look of mild amusement in his eyes and the curve of his slender lips. Gamma, was bent over, arranging the equipment lying on the platform, ignoring his brothers. He would willingly work with the others but he would make conquests on his own.

“A leader in battle, a tactician, and an organizational genius. Each useful in their own unique way.” The Doctor smiled, “They possess your gifts but each will make use of an individual set of talents that will define their identities. I thought that you would be pleased.”

“Are they equal in all other ways?”

“Yes. They’re all extraordinary students, each excelling in different areas but brilliant none-the-less. Although Alpha is physically dominant, Beta focuses and tames his enthusiasm, while Gamma maintains an equilibrium and controls everything in the background. They’re a team and, when our next generation is born, I think that we should consider organizing them into family groups like this. Having grown up together and being trained as a unit, they’ll work seamlessly, probably without even talking to each other, which should prove to be extremely useful.”

“You’re a genius!”

The Doctor bowed.

“I’d like to see them in the field and I think I might have the perfect test subject for them to execute the skills that you’ve taught them. We’ll need some bait to draw him out of his sanctuary,” smiled Zepallo, holding up his new hand like a trophy.

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