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‘As we expected, the congress in Copenhagen did not help. The short-term interests of different countries differ too much, that a truly effective economic strategy could be born of such a meeting.’ The voice from screen 4 continued his monologue in a cold tone. ‘You will all agree, that without our intervention, humanity will destroy our planet! Does anyone have anything to add before we study the details of the various issues analyzed and optimized by our dear friend the Architect?’

‘Yes, me. I do not want to be complicit in this plan and I announce that I want to sell my place and my power of decision.’ The announcement was heard from screen 6. Over the next few seconds, each of remaing 12 felt their heart stop beating. Only Sergei Ivanov remained unmoved.

‘Sir Alex Villas, are you sure of your decision? Have you thought this through?’ said one of the 12. ‘Absolutely, Miss Edora Lund.’ Replied Alex, ‘My decision was deliberate and it protects both the interests of the Organization and my own. Moreover, our procedures and protocols allow us the luxury of leaving without living in constant fear. This is why we split all the information about the locations of our ‘research and production centres’ I will give the President of the Quorum my secure files and codes. You should move all the sites under my jurisdiction in less than a month. Or is there something one of you wants to tell me to the contrary?’.

Alex stared one by one at the screens of members of the Quorum. Meanwhile, Edora, trying not to explode, but still red with anger said as calmly as possible, ‘Can we hope to understand what has warranted this sudden change?’ Alex answered quickly, ‘I just find your plan completely immoral. The fact that you behave like gods, deciding the fate of mere mortals. All rich and powerful in these secret meetings. It seems all too grandiose… even for me.’

‘Do you think your drug and arms trafficking and your life of debauchery allows you to judge us? You’re a hypocrite and a coward, Sir Villas.’ Edora yelled, with no intention of letting anyone calm her down. Averting his eyes from the verbal jousting taking place on screen, Sergei poured himself a glass of vodka. The situation seemed clear and nobody could change a thing. Although the head of Alexander Villas still remained attached to his neck, it was already ‘virtually’ cut off. The Organization could not take the risk to leave him alive. All were aware of this, probably even Alex Villas himself.

***

Sitting cross-legged in front of his white wall, Ulric Panopeus put two drops of the cursed nectar on his tongue. By using a single dose, the agony of those future days taught him a lot. Much more than he hoped, but not enough to be sure. He hoped his ability as a ‘Seer’ would allow him to see a global vision of the planet. He had tried before, but this was a long time ago and despite the chance that he would make himself crazy in the process, he felt he should take the risk again.

‘Let Zorvân’s elixir bring me visions. Let time and space greet the unwise visitor.’ He chanted. Flashes of visions appeared quickly. The first one began with wheat fields rendered sterile, burnt by heat. Another followed, showing flooding in orchards without fruit, a third showed people demonstrating in the streets, demanding the government’s help and food. Lastly, a final vision showed nuclear missile silos opening, ready to launch. Then, there was the 3 seconds of total darkness, but this time, he heard the beating of his own heart. The vision of the familiar mushroom cloud appeared to him at the same time as always. Again, he was standing in the middle of 4 nuclear explosions. He saw that he was both a participant and a spectator.

3 more seconds of black overshadowed by the sound of his own blood pumping. A new series of visions flashed through his mind. A hot wind decimated crops. Cries of mothers as they held their dead children. Buildings collapsed like houses of cards. Men, like messiahs, standing on piles of rubble. A baby floating in a glass tube, full of bright light. Dogs wrestling over the remnants of a human limb. Young men fighting to the death like gladiators to the shouts of a frenzied mob. Adults playing chess to a Mozart aria. Rain turned into rivers carrying corpses. People drinking human blood. Heavily equipped soldiers firing on civilians armed with knives. Men digging deep into the earth with giant machines. A city of order and artificial light teaming full of life and technology. A cold sun illuminating a devastated and abandoned city, overgrown with vegetation. A huge pyramid, eclipsing the sun, with mountains in background.

He opened his eyes suddenly and vomited. Lying on the floor, his whole body went into uncontrollable spasms. Each beat of his heart was painful. Everything seemed to shake around him. The white room seemed lively and aggressive, like a predator ready to devour his flesh. Fear gripped his mind. After a few minutes he finally managed to calm down. He got up and wiped with his hands a trickle of saliva mixed with vomit. While staggering, he went to the bathroom to rinse his mouth. His eyes met his reflection in the mirror. He observed in silence. He finally understood ‘their’ role. He finally understood ‘his’ role. However, his spirit deemed that his body would rather die than live this future.

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