Optimism,” said Cacambo, “What is that?” “Alas!” replied Candide, “It is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.Voltaire, Candide
Lee Kwan Che, the Empress Dowager, mother of the Emperor to be addressed the assembly of Dragons. She was the most revered mother of all having birthed the legendary Dragon, Juron’s soul in the form of Hue. Lee stood with a regal air of calm and the room hushed to silence. Only the faint clattering of dishes in the kitchen kept the room of Dragon Aristocrats grounded in the present.
“Masters, brothers and sisters, I welcome you to my house to hear my plea of unity, the unity that has kept us on our course for over 108 years. We have accomplished much since the beginning of our ancestors’ flight out of China in 1912, Lee began. We are at a crossroads where our unity is shaken and our grand accomplishments, our sacrifices, our efforts to be the people that lead the world out of the dark pit it has lived in since our ancestors learned to record history are endangered by our fear and misunderstanding.”
Lee glanced around the room at the faces of the Dragon Masters that led each enclave scattered across the globe. There she found the stoic gaze of agreement on some, doubt on others, and rebellion on a few. She paused to let her words sink in and to ensure her gaze of supreme authority was recognized by each face she met.
“I ask that each of you continue to rule your enclave with benevolence and care. Our Cybrids are the foundation of our future, not the slavery some have relegated them to. Our Praetorians will live among you in strength to ensure you do not stray from your oath to serve the Emperor and the prophecy we bring to reality. Noble cause need not fear the Praetorians because I will reward you for your dedicated service as we always have in the past.”
Another scan showed the effect of her words on the leadership vital to success. It is better to be feared than loved, she thought. Love led to disappointment but fear kept the march of Cybrids unmolested to their objective. She knew that some in this room must be made an example of to enforce the rule of the Dragon Royalty. The Empress Dowager knew that mercy often led to reprisals from the spared and so there would be no mercy nor any soul left alive that subverted the prophecy of humanity born out of the union of Cybrid and human. The Praetorians would ensure the goal was achieved. Knowing this, Lee smiled and called the meeting to attention and dismissed the assembly to enjoy their meals and to talk of the future among themselves.
After the venue began to wind down, Peter grabbed Alexa and spirited her to a dark shadow in the hall. “I want you to go with me to visit Mariah,” he begged, pain registering in his features and mannerisms. Alexa’s stunned face changed to agreement and they left to drive to the Biomed facility where Gloria and Mariah had undergone extensive stem cell regrowth and biomechanical enhancements to their damaged bodies.
The pages of Voltaire’s Candide flipped rhythmically under voracious scanning. Shick, shick, shick, the pages sounded off with each flip. Mariah had come to realize that the age of Romanticism had fueled the world’s liberalism and challenged old beliefs. Romance, love, and freedom were ideologies that humans only gave lip service to. She felt a fool for diving headlong into something that left her near death and fearful of every human person she was forced to interact with.
Jon had been right to warn her of interacting with humans. But, here was Voltaire, a writer of the Age of Reason, who brought humor and satire to bear on the status quo and paid dearly for it as she had. His writing and philosophy pointed to the futility of optimism and so optimism fled Mariah’s mind and she withdrew into the silence of the Cybrid way.
“6B5504. You have visitors,” a synthesized voice sounded in Mariah’s room intercom. “Who could be visiting at this hour?” Mariah stood nervously as the door registered a loud clack when the bolt lock retreated.
Shock flashed on the Cybrid’s face as Peter and Alexa walked in, their countenance rigid in forced smiles and happy greetings like none of her suffering had registered on them. Mariah found herself averting her eyes and greeting the two royal Dragons in proper protocol. Where had that come from, she wondered.
Peter approached Mariah and stopped. He said nothing. Mariah shook with fear. He smelled different. There was the bitterness and acrid smell of cigarettes, wine, sweat and unkemptness. Mariah retreated. Voices from a befogged past registered in her ears as she stared at the floor and a pair of scuffed men’s shoes in front of her.
“I’m sorry Mariah. We didn’t mean to startle you, Peter said. Please relax and sit down. We want to see how you are doing.” Hands seemed to guide her to a chair beside her bed. She sat but she could not bear to look up. Is there anything you need? Alexa asked.
“Why am I kept locked in this room? Mariah asked.
“It’s to keep you safe Mariah. You only need to ask if you want to leave and someone will go with you to keep you from being bothered,” Alexa lied. Even in the ultra security of the facility, there were those who would avenge Gloria by killing Mariah and Alexa was not taking any chances.
“Will I ever be allowed to go back to work?”
“Yes, of course. Peter replied. Whenever you feel like working again, you can come back. We have some more advanced work in your specialty and we have a new lab in a forested area. It’s beautiful Mariah and you’ll have free reign of the facility, your new home, and all of the surrounding lands.”
“I’d like that very much. The Cybrid finally looked up, her green eyes glassy and dull with a pain that appeared far beyond her physical discomfort. Can Jon join me there?”
“If he wants,” came the reply.