Ileana stared at the ground as she answered Sariel’s question. “This is my fault,” she murmured.
“Our fault,” Chess corrected her, “if you really need to blame anybody besides Tez and his gang.
“No. It’s my fault for ever thinking there was some good in every person.” Ileana appeared to be on the verge of tears. “All my stupid, naive ideas… and other people pay the consequences.” She looked up at Chess suddenly. “And, through it all, you have been one of those people. Well, it has to end. Oh, I’ll offer Tez their notes,” she growled fiercely. “I’ll let him get really close…”
Listening to her, Chess suddenly felt his heart pounding. “Where is Gryff?” he demanded.
“Gryff is busy,” Ileana told him, “making explosives for me.”
“No, no….” Chess paced the courtyard, muttering. “This can’t be the only way: stopping death with death?” He spread his arms helplessly. “Tez is a smart guy. Can’t we talk to him?”
“Okay…” Ileana entertained the idea with a bitter smile. “Say we talk to him: we sit him down for a long talk. And, at the end of the conversation, he gets up and says, ‘I understand your point of view, but I’m still going after the water wizards.’ Then he and his men jump into their trucks and take off, leaving us standing there.” She gazed off in the direction of the road, as if picturing the scene. “No, these scientists have done too much good, and they have the potential to do too much future good. If I have the chance to stop this insanity, then I’d better take it, and make up for everything I’ve caused.”
“I wish you would stop taking this on yourself,” Chess groaned. But he, too, was looking toward the road. In his imagination, he saw it, far below the crest of the hill where they were standing. He pictured the trucks bearing down on them, as they stood waiting… And then he had an idea.
“At least, we should give him a choice,” he whispered, half to himself. “Okay… yeah!” He cast what he knew was probably a wild-eyed glance at Ileana, and then he began to pace again.
Later that evening, after most of the light had retreated from the sky, Sled and Fogg returned to Lodestar. Fogg reported that the decoy signal had worked, buying them the precious hours until dawn.
Chess found Gryff, who was set up in one of the old labs, and working by the light produced from their newest energy sources. As Gryff worked at his one-man production line of small munitions assembly, Chess told him the plan.
When Chess was done speaking, Gryff’s mouth was set in an even tighter line than usual. But he only said, “Then, you’ll have to give me a hand.”
They worked nearly all night, and were up again as soon as the sky was bright enough for them to walk around without needing a flashlight. Then they carried the gear down the hill.
By the time they finished, the water wizards were straggling down to the highway, themselves.
“As soon as the ground thaws,” Chess overheard Marcello telling Sariel, “plant those trees.” But Sariel was shaking her head again. “Yes,” Marcello insisted. “I can’t think of any better place in all the world to plant them. Take care of them, and, someday, they might take care of you. Sari…,” he groaned suddenly, “please come with me. This idea is so dangerous. At least, promise me you’ll hide.”
Sariel, gripping his hands, smiled benignly. “Go. Come back when you can. I will miss you.”
The water wizards set off down the highway, and Chess practically held his breath until they were safely out of sight. The Lodestar artificers escorted Noah back to the safety of the buildings, leaving only the three of them, and Gryff. The early November morning was cool, but beads of sweat were visible on Gryff’s forehead, as he stood in the road and scowled at Chess.
“You’re the only person I would trust to do this,” Chess said, giving him a pleading look. Without making any reply, Gryff turned and stomped off into the woods at the side of the road.
They stood there, then, in the middle of the highway, with the mist around them soaking their shoes. With a brief grin, Sariel lowered herself to sit cross-legged on the pavement in front of them. And Ileana, never taking her gaze from the horizon of the road, clasped Chess’s fingers in hers.
Chess’s heart pounded, and he realized that he had never felt more alive.
Continued next page...
There was a sack of Chittor in 1303. But before this could take place, the men and women of the fortress, obedient to old custom, performed the terrible rite of jauhar. According to this, when defeat threatens and there is no other way, in the last extremity, it was better for the men to go out and die in the field of battle and for the women to burn themselves on a pyre.
- Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru
Unfortunately, Gaviotas has never become the utopian example that would cause the entire world to follow suit. Much of the reason for that stems from their isolation from the visitors -- political, scientific or just tourists -- who might otherwise go there in droves. The inhabitants would likely welcome the chance to show off what they have done, but the dangerous area in which they are located is often controlled by rebel guerrilla groups or drug traffickers. The village is not easy to get to, and not really safe from dissidents, kidnappers, or anyone who might view outsiders as valuable in some way. Another problem for Gaviotas is the lack of political will to expand it or even fund it, both within and outside of Columbia.
In all of human history, there has likely never been a successful utopia. One probably cannot exist. People are human and fallible. Well, people are people: someone’s always going to see life as a zero sum game and try to gain more than their fair share of something desirable. Someone (probably me) is always going to try to get out of doing their fair share of work. Lodestar is definitely not a utopia. But it is a kind of sanctuary, which might be all that we can hope for in the future. And like Gaviotas, they have some good ideas for improvements. And they are trying.
“For the past quarter-century -- ever since Gaviotas began, he said, “I’ve been studying the history and the literature of utopic communities.”
“I thought you said this wasn’t utopia.”
“Neither were any of those other places. They were attempts.”
- Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman
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