Zero Node
Chapter 15: Another Awakening

by Jeff Rand

ATS Explained

Many of the characters in Another Ten Seconds are reasonable facsimiles of actual humans. Throughout the novel there are passages designed to provoke memories for some of these individuals. This chapter features a number of these memories.

Flying a small aircraft is one of Mr. Horn's hobbies, although he has yet to admit to having a crash landing.

One cannot predict a person's future residence, so Doug Wilson is depicted as living in Farmington Hills in the house he inhabited at the time the chapter was written. He still has the Schwinn LeTour bicycle. In 1979 he blew the front tire on the bike and was able to get a new one at the Millington hardware store. I am sure the bike still has the same tire and suspect that store is the type that would continue to have the same model on hand, even if the store was mostly destroyed.

There is some text woven in the fabric of the story that should invoke a memory for Steve Donohue.

Harold Oatley grew up near Cass City and is buried at the Elkland Cemetery, although he spent his later years in the Detroit area.

John found nutrition bars in the plane. For a short time, as the chapter was written, Boy Scout branded nutrition bars were available. They weren't bad.

Jeff Rand
October 14, 2019

Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter

Steve Donohue gasped for breath, now experiencing warm air. His eyes were glazed as he tried to focus on his surroundings. Slowly things came into focus, when he realized that he was lying on a small bed of some kind. The room was dimly lit, as the small windows were covered. Yet he became aware of movement, the gentle rocking motions of a boat on the sea. He was weak and not inclined to leave his bed.

He saw a figure approaching in the darkened room. He could not recognize the person and assumed he had been captured, perhaps to be returned to Yakutsk and imprisoned back in the virtual world. As the human grew near, Steve realized that he was just a boy. However, he did not recognize the lad and feared the worst.

"Where am I? Who are you?" bellowed Steve.

"You've been rescued and are in the Clearwater cabin," replied the boy.

"This is not the Clearwater Cabin I remember."

"I doubt you have ever been on this boat. There was a terrible storm, and we found you floating on some wreckage in the middle of the Pacific," countered the boy. "My name is Louis."

"Louis? You look vaguely familiar. Do I know you, or are you here to take me back to Yakutsk?" asked Steve.

"We have met before, and we are here to save you."

"Well thank you I guess, but did you find Jeff?" Steve inquired.

Leu responded, "I am afraid we did not find Mr. Rand."

"How is it that you know our names?"

"I had better let the others explain," said Leu. Then he shouted, "Mr. Donohue is awake!"

Suddenly there was a flash of light, and Steve looked to the foot of his bed where a door had opened. He was momentarily blinded by the bright light. Then, as his eyes focused, he saw a young woman. It had been years, but he recognized her.

"You're Michaela!" he shouted.

"Yes, I am Michaela King, at your service," she responded. "I see you already met Leu, that's Louis Rein."

As two adult males stuck their heads into Clearwater's cabin, Michaela continued. "I am sure you recognize my father, Keith and Leu's dad, Ethan."

Steve was ecstatic at the unexpected reunion. Though Jeff had disappeared at sea, Steve's hope for salvation had been renewed.

Ethan moved in to sit by Steve, "There is much to tell, and it will take a while. Captain will you secure the sail." At once, Leu left the cabin to tend to the sail.

"Captain?" inquired Steve.

"It is a long story, but we have the time," said Ethan.

Leu returned, as the crew of the Clearwater crowded to the bench next to Steve.

Leu, Michaela, Keith, and Ethan shared in telling the story.

The Winter Camp Future Society met in person at the conclusion of Winter Camp 50. Although Neural Virtual Reality was still new, it was felt that it would have more impact in the future and could make it impossible to place a 1,000-year time capsule for Winter Camp. It was decided that a capsule should be buried to take advantage of the temperature changes during the course of a year, and thus be able to be automatically activate in 950 years. As you know, Alan Wilson engineered an electro/mechanical system to trigger a signal based upon the thermal properties of the expansion of mercury. Mark Bollman was able to invade his element collection for a sample of uranium, which would have a sufficient half-life to produce a charge in the year 02976.

The natural location for the time capsule would be in the north, far from the modifying effects of the warming oceans. Siberia was selected to be the best spot in an area northeast of Yakutsk. You and Jeff volunteered to make the trip in the summer of 2027. Securing tools for the excavation would not be difficult, but getting the time capsule into Russia through customs would be a problem. We knew Jeff had travelled enough to find a solution. We weren't surprised to learn that the time capsule went by Hawaii then Guam and on to Okinawa. From there it made its way to Hong Kong for a land crossing into the Peoples Republic of China. We heard it travelled across China to Mongolia before slipping over the Russian border.

About the time the capsule was being placed, humanity was preparing for the World Unity Celebration to be held on September 21, 2027. We did not know if the placement of the time capsule had been successful, or if you had joined the celebration through neural virtual reality.

It was a tough time for our families, and we were hesitant to connect to neural virtual reality. The Rein women were inclined to participate and did join the celebration. However, we the Rein men had never accepted the necessary implants and declined to participate. The Kings, too, had a split decision with Keith and Michaela deciding to join Ethan and Louis in declining the opportunity. Keith had some concerns about their safety and decided that they should hide out in a toxic waste dump located in Creighton in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Humanity's move to the neural virtual reality centers seemed to go smoothly but three days after the official celebration no one had exited the centers. Then there were planes and explosions and even unmanned tanks. Except for the NVR centers, civilization was being systematically destroyed. We were cautious and began to investigate. We were nearly killed trying to enter the NVR center in Sault Saint Marie. The truck we had used was destroyed. Of course, so was every other vehicle, building, and bridge. The structures at Creighton had been spared because they were so dilapidated that further destruction appeared unnecessary.

We spent some time in Creighton trying to decide what to do. We knew there was real danger trying to get into an NVR center and were afraid of the aircraft which continued to search and destroy any human life on the outside. We believed the centers were well stocked to keep people there, and our friends and families might be OK for many months.

Somewhere in our vaulted isles of human memory, there were two facts that came apparent. We knew that you and Jeff were headed to Siberia to place the time capsule. Michaela had kept a slip with the planned coordinates: 67 degrees, 34 minutes, 53 seconds north by 128 degrees, 8 minutes, 25 seconds east and 162 tads due south of the summit. Another fact which had not received much fanfare came from Gabe Church. He reported discovering a frightening truth, which he did not reveal. However, he placed instructions in a sealed osvat to be placed in the 1,000-year time capsule, only to be opened should a serious emergency require. We now had purpose and needed to retrieve the time capsule.

Locating the time capsule would be difficult once we got to Siberia, but getting there without transportation and NVR defenses might be impossible. Yet, we had no choice.

Over the winter we found hidden sources of food and gathered the supplies for the journey. We were going to pull a hand cart.

We departed on foot from Creighton in April 2028. First, we went west to Wisconsin then to Minnesota. We crossed into Canada without having to go through customs. Actually, we had several close calls from aircraft still patrolling for loose humans. We believed that continuing north would be best to avoid a deadly encounter.

Pulling the cart on foot, we went through western Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia before entering the Yukon Territory. We reached the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk highway to head to the Arctic Ocean. We had travelled more than a year and it was already fall when we reached Tuktoyaktuk. We stayed in the ruins of the town during the winter planning to travel across the ocean to Russia next summer.

We were lucky to find the Clearwater in dry-dock only partially damaged. By late spring 2030, we had the Clearwater ready for the journey, along with four mountain bikes as cargo. However, we had to wait for the ice to clear, but global warming had helped. We set sail on the Arctic and made remarkable progress getting around Alaska into the Bering Sea. We travelled southeast around Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula to head to Magadan, where there should be a road.

It was early August when we moored the Clearwater in a cove south of Magadan. From there we set off on the mountain bikes to travel to Yakutsk using the Kolyma Highway, which you may know as the road of bones. We did not see any aircraft but continued to be careful to avoid any sign connected with an NVR establishment.

In September we were able to find two canoes to paddle down the Alban River. The Alban joined the Lena River, which flowed past the Sobolokh-Mayan River. We paddled that river upstream to its source. Then we had to hike in the Verkhoyansk Range to Khrebet Orulgan. We went due south just 162 tads. Indeed, the time capsule was well placed where it would not be disturbed for a millennium.

We nearly starved to death before we reached Yakutsk in early November. Winter was upon us and temperatures were dropping fast. Yet we continued our mission and found adequate shelter. After the near-death experience, we were fortunate to find two snowmobiles and fuel.

We felt like we were violating a great trust in deciding to open the time capsule. The sealed osvat was opened, only to contain a note 'I believe I know the truth behind neural virtual reality. You must go to the intersection of the equator and international dateline…Gabe.'

Steve, we knew that you and Jeff had been successful in placing the time capsule, reasoning that you made it in time to join the World Unity Celebration while being connected in the Yakutsk NVR Center.

Steve had been enthralled with the events that the others had described, but finally interrupted, "You mean that you actually rescued us."

Michaela proceeded, "Yes, but was not simple. Eventually, Ethan and my father found you and Jeff. They had a difficult time extracting you, as Leu and I waited in the hall of the building. As they were dragging you out of the chamber, a pair of robots came down the hall and shot our parents with darts. Then the robots extended their appendages to grab our parents and bring them into the chamber. Leu and I were too scared to enter the chamber, so we grabbed you and Jeff. We were able to escape unnoticed and bring you to the shack. It was then that we realized that the security system had mistaken you and Jeff for our fathers in order to return them to the chamber."

She continued, "We hoped you would recover, but had to get our fathers out. It took several days for us to devise a plan to retrieve them and escape alive. When we got back to the shack, you were gone. We assumed you would take the logical route to the Pacific. We got on our snowmobiles and found your trail. When we discovered the remains of your camp, we assumed you had perished in the brutal conditions."

Steve became animated, "Now you know we made to the sea. But I have a change in plans. Jeff and I were headed to D-A in hopes of finding an answer there. Now I believe the answer lies in the middle of this ocean."

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