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         Tez looked toward the trucks, appearing to survey the damage or perhaps he was evaluating Razor’s superior firepower, Chess thought. For a breathless minute, Tez stood absolutely still. And then he threw one last glare in Ileana’s direction, and stomped quickly back to his remaining truck. Chess heard orders barked out, and then the truck was slowly backing away.
         Razor watched Tez’s movements, his back to the three of them, still. Chess glanced once more at Ileana, but she was just staring steadily at the figure of Razor.
         And, with panic rising and the white noise taking over his brain, Chess watched her lower her other hand -- the hand that was supposed to signal Gryff -- limply to her side. And then Tez’s trucks rounded the bend, lost to sight. And Razor finally noticed them.

         Razor’s shock at seeing Ileana was tangible. “You…,” he growled. His face was expressionless.
         Ileana took another step back. She cleared her throat and then said in a loud but unsteady voice. “You’re just letting him go? Don’t – don’t you want to go after him?”
         Razor shook his head solemnly. “I have men stationed at the two nearest crossroads,” he explained, taking a measured step closer. “He can get around us, of course, but it’ll take him a while.”
         Chess gaped at each of them in turn. Then, in disbelief, he noticed Sariel, who was still sitting placidly on the ground, with her face tipped upward to gaze at the scene.
         Chess blinked and focused on Razor again. Chess’s lungs felt constricted as he struggled to breathe. He wanted to run. He wanted Ileana to give the signal to blow them all up. He wanted to sink into the earth and disappear -- he wanted to be anywhere but here, facing Razor.
         He was certain now that Ileana would never signal for the bombs. They had let Tez go, and now Razor was here. And it all seemed more terrifying than the almost certain death he had just faced.
         But his friends were still here, and so was Lodestar. And the wizards still needed protection, even if he had no idea how to do that, now. So Chess stood there, steadfastly, in the middle of the road.
         And Razor was still talking to Ileana. “We’ve been tracking him for weeks now,” he explained. “‘Cause if anyone’s going to get his hands on a weapon to take over the world, it’s gonna be me, not him! But… the best I can figure is that he’s chasing some dissidents who don’t even have their own vehicle. The whole thing’s just ridiculous,” Razor scoffed. “But I’ll gladly ruin his day. And if he ever gets in my way again, I’ll kill him.”
         “There’s no weapon,” Ileana groaned. But then, as if a new thought had occurred to her, she tilted her head at Razor and asked hesitantly, “Wait -- you don’t want the water wizards?”
         “Water wizards,” Razor echoed dismissively. “You always believed in that stuff, huh? You always believed that people and technology could save the world.” He shook his head. “No, I don’t care about the water wizards. Ileana…” he added, in an admonishing tone, “you…” For a second, Razor turned back and looked toward his men, and toward Tez’s discarded truck, where dark smoke was still curling upward. And then he rounded suddenly on Ileana. “You…,” Razor growled, “you crazy… idealistic bitch!” His last word came out in a roar. And then he began stomping toward her.
         Chess looked at Ileana, but she did not move. And Razor was less than two meters away from her, and closing fast. And where was Gryff? Chess looked around desperately. He could not activate any of the bombs from where he was standing, and he had no gun, no weapons at all. Razor might not want the water wizards, but what would he do to Ileana?
         Chess stared in impotent terror for a moment, and then his brain seemed to wake up. “No,” he muttered. “No...” He stepped in front of Ileana, got between Ileana and Razor. “No!” He put his hands up, even though they were shaking. Even though he expected the guy to shove him aside without a glance or shoot him without a second thought. “Stop!” Chess cried. “Just stop!”
         Razor stopped. And he blinked at Chess, and focused his gaze on him, and then his eyes widened. And all sound ceased, and Chess’s heartbeat seemed to pause.

Continued next page...


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Isms and Ideologies

As Winston Churchill once observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.”
- Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku

         The world of Gaviotas -- as contrasted with Chess’s world of civ -- is a sociopolitical / economic structure that certainly sounds socialist. All village members participate according to their skill sets, and all reap equal benefits of food and shelter, which are not lavish by any standards, and a share in decision-making. But socialism has a terrible reputation in our modern world because of the many violent oppressive nation states that have formed under that banner. Vaclav Havel, for one, would certainly balk at the idea of a wonderful socialist utopia, because he had lived for decades under a totalitarian state that operated according to socialist economic principles. He witnessed the effects of the state owning and controlling all businesses, which extend to the state being able to control the speech, and activities, and lives of anyone who wanted to make a living within that state.
         Jawaharlal Nehru, on the other hand, also spent decades living under oppressive rule, and, like Havel, he spent years in prison because he spoke out against the government. But Nehru believed in a socialist ideal where every inhabitant had equal opportunity to work, get an education, and be able to have a comfortable family life. He had lived with the effects of a government not taking care of the people who inhabited its lands and severely discriminating against them. You might say that Havel’s utopia would have the government leave its citizens alone, whereas Nehru’s utopia would be sort of the opposite. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective.
         Perhaps Gaviotas could be defined as democratic socialism. Or perhaps it needs a completely new definition.

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)



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