This is the second part of my five part science fiction adventure The Fires of Alexandria. This chapter takes place three years before the first part.
The EM-egg flew over the calm Mediterranean Sea late in the evening. The sun had set hours ago, and the stars sparkled in billions of constellations in the night sky. The smooth surface of the EM-egg reflected the light of the stars as it sped at a velocity of 3500 km per hour, carried by electromagnetic energy over the black ocean. The starlight rushed like comets over the reflective surface of the machine. The oval object itself appeared like an artificial comet, a fallen star navigating its way through the night, heading for the EM-egg port of Alexandria.
Inside the fast-moving object it was warm, and a comfortable yellow glow, like the light of the setting sun, lit up the oval room in which eighteen passengers sat in six rows of three in cream leather chairs. Some of the travellers enjoyed a late dinner, others were lost in Bee-books, glowing brown, hovering in front of them. Some were in deep conversations about personal matters or were making plans for visiting the sights of the city, the cinema of science, the garden of literature and of course the great library of Alexandria.
The travellers on board looked excited for their arrival and were dressed in formal wear for this Queen of cities. Some wore dark blue, green or brown suits, made of artificial silk, comfortable but elegant material. The people of the Republic of Europe and the Republic of Alexandria always imitated the natural world when it came to fashion, as nature was the greatest designer of all.
Among them sat Helios Marewood, a palaeontologist with brown curly hair and a three-day beard. He was a good-looking man. Unlike the other passengers, his face did not show any signs of excitement. Neither did his clothing. He wore a cloudy grey jumper, black tight sweatpants, suggesting the lines of his muscular legs. His head rested on his left hand; his hazel eyes stared at the beige seat in front of him. He was lost in thoughts. He was on his way to meet his mother in Alexandria. Helios hated her. And with her was Helios’s ex- boyfriend, Antonius Heiden. He loved and hated him.
It all started seven years ago when he was in the middle of his studies at the University of Alexandria. His mother and his father, devoted SAM party members, as every Marewood was supposed to be, had achieved a breakthrough in their nuclear time travel experiments. At that time, his mother and his father were the most celebrated of palaeontologists and time- travel theorists. However, during one of their dangerous experiments, something had gone terribly wrong and his beloved father had paid the ultimate price.
After his father’s death, when his mother did not show any signs of sorrow or remorse, she just continued to work with even more passion. But that was the nature of SAM party members. For the Star and Moon Party, science stood above everything else. The loss of a human life for science might be a tragedy but a necessity for the future of a world filled with ever evolving sciences.
But Helios had enough of it. His mother has always cared for science more than for her own son and it was Helios’s father who had raised him. She had taken the only loving parent Helios felt he ever had. He chose to break all bonds with his mother, his family and the SAM party. For a while, he even considered joining the TOL party, the Tree of Life Party. Where the SAM party devoted life and love to science the TOL party’s philosophy was of a more human nature. They too believed deeply in all forms of science but its exploration must not harm humans or the natural world. Ultimately, Helios did not want to join a party out of spite. He respected the TOL party and back then he felt he would be better off alone, no party business, just science.
But he would never forgive his mother for being so reckless. He had read the reports of the experiment. If his mother had been more careful, his father would still be alive. He would still have a family. His mother had tried to reason with him. It was after the funeral in their ancestral family home, in the dark green living room. Paintings covered all walls, dating back to the times of the Roman Empire. It was a beautiful but intimidating place.
His mother was sitting on a dark brown leather sofa, dressed in a blood red gown, the colour of mourning, her raven black hair fell in curly waves down to her hips. She had just applied a dark red lipstick and sipped a gin and tonic in a crystal glass. She looked divine. Among SAM party members she was nicknamed the Olympian of Palaeontology, Queen of Dinosaurs. Bored she just said, ‘We did everything according to theory. Your father knew the risks. Nuclear time travel experiments are enormously dangerous.’
Then she smiled at him and said with a kinder voice: ‘You should consider yourself lucky. I could have died too. You still have a mother who loves you.’
‘I do not believe you.’ Helios said.
His usually kind hazel eyes glowed with hatred.
‘You never truly loved us. Neither father nor me. Your first and true love is science. If you had to kill me in order to travel back in time, you would gladly rip my heart from my chest.’
His mother looked at him with her dark eyes, considering his statement as if it was an interesting question about some science project. As if given the choice she would have to think about it.
‘And father knew as well. Once he told me that he loved you more than anything in the world. But over time, his love for you faded. You lost him. And I guess that’s also why he started spending so much time with that young time- travel theorist. What’s her name again? Alcmena I think it is.’ Helios said.
This was too much. Without hesitation his mother threw the gin and tonic across the room. The glass hit a painting, depicting Hera throwing her child Hephaistos off Mount Olympus, and exploded into a thousand crystals.
‘That was a good hit.’ Helios said.
‘I aimed for you.’ She said, stood up and left the room.
Helios left the house immediately after and did not hear from her in five years, until his birthday two years ago. After Helios and Antonius had finished university, they both moved to Hamburg for their first palaeontology project to evaluate the brain capacity of allosaurus, iguanodon and diplodocus. It was five years of love and their passion for science. But it was all over when Helios’s mother had come back into his life.
It was after his 27th birthday when his mother had gotten into contact with him again. Helios felt only freezing coldness when he thought about his mother. But remembering the last time he had talked to Antonius a wave of emotions crushed over his heart and mind.
He did not know what would be worse. Meeting his mother again or meeting Antonius again. They were both of similar character which was probably the reason why his mother had asked Antonius two years ago to join her as a science partner for her new experiments. These were only theoretical. The TOL party had forced the SAM party to shut down its practical experiments after his father’s accident. She wanted Helios to join her too but he declined immediately. Antonius gave her a different answer though.
Helios knew that Antonius loved him more than any other human in the world. But Antonius’s greatest love was the one for palaeontology and the theory of time travel. And sometimes, Helios could not blame Antonius. Sometimes the excitement for science overcame him too and he forgot everything around him. But he would never sacrifice loved ones or a relationship like his mother had. Like Antonius had done.
The last time they had been together was on a rainy day in Hamburg. When their beautiful little apartment, that had been so warm and full of colour, had been left empty. The walls appeared grey on this rainy day. All the furniture, all the paintings and books had been removed. Every step they made on the light brown polished wooden floor, echoed like a spectre of the past through the empty rooms. Antonius stood by the open apartment door, one hand clasped on the door handle, the veins of his muscular forearm standing out. As if he did not want to let go. He turned around and looked at Helios with his cobalt blue eyes, as deep as the ocean.
‘I hope one day you will understand. I am so sorry that all of this happened to you and your family. But this is an opportunity I cannot let go. I was not born into a prestigious family of celebrated scientists like you. This is a chance that will never come again.’
Helios looked at Antonius, his arms crossed, holding his upper body tight so that he would not fall apart.
‘I understand. But you must understand that I can never forgive you for the choice you have made. To work with my mother. Never.’ He said with a shaking voice.
Helios did not want to cry in front of him.
Antonius smiled at him; his disarming smile he had used so often. However, he was not as controlled as Helios. Tears ran down his cheeks.
‘You know, never is a word that does not exist among time travel theorists. Never is a concept created by human culture not by nature. Anything is possible within nature. Maybe one day there will be hope for the two of us again. Never is obsolete.’
And Antonius let go of the door handle, let go of the life he had had with Helios and closed the door behind him. Standing alone in the cold apartment, Helios shed a single tear.
‘Would you like to have anything else to drink before we land?’
Torn out of his memories, Helios looked up. The EM-egg attendant smiled at him. The sunflower yellow of the attendant’s costume and the glow of the warm light behind him brought Helios back.
‘No thank you, I am fine.’ Helios smiled faintly, the EM-egg attendant nodded and moved on to the next passenger.
Five minutes later the EM-egg’s journey across the Mediterranean Sea had come to its end and it docked onto an egg picker, a long silver tube through which the passengers could board and leave the EM-egg. Helios was the first one to leave. He rushed through the entrance hall. It was just as yellow lit as the inside of the EM-egg but filled with hologram images glowing on the big walls, advertising the latest scientific discoveries, alongside pictures of the beautiful hotels, that travellers could book for their stay in Alexandria.
One of those discoveries advertised was the beaming face of a dark brown woman, wearing silver glasses. Helios recognised his former Translingual Professor Cassiopeia, from the Alexandrian University. Weeks ago, she had discovered a dialect hippos and elephants use to communicate with each other. She was considered to be among the finalists of the AA, the Alexandrian Award, the greatest honour a scientist could receive. Then the images shifted showing wonderful pictures of the native landscape and nature of Alexandria’s surroundings. They were Mediterranean jungles and sunshine beaches with clear water untouched by human interference. No matter the beauty of this Queen of cities, the surrounding natural world was the jewel of Alexandria.
Helios picked up his luggage. He had only a small black suitcase. He did not intend to stay long. The Bee-mail he had received from the SAM headquarters of Alexandria was very clear: Professor Marewood and Professor Heiden cordially invite you, Helios Marewood, to an unofficial presentation of their breakthrough project in theoretical time travel, followed by a private audience to discuss future endeavours and collaboration.
He had laughed when he had read it and even now, he had to supress a laugh while thinking about it again. It was so formal, so out of touch, as if he was just another professor, still a member of the SAM party. His immediate thought had been to ignore the message. However, he had then received a call from his grandfather, his father’s father.
His grandfather was the only family member with whom Helios was still occasionally in touch with, telling him about his science projects but never talking about family. As with his father, the two of them had always been on the same page. They both understood this world but also recognised so many problems that many scientists did not see. His grandfather wanted Helios to attend the presentation because he would be there too. He implied that Helios simply had to see what his mother had discovered. And deeper down, in Helios’s broken heart there was something else that echoed like a whale’s song from the deep blue sea to a warm summer sky above. Maybe one day there will be hope for the two of us again.
Whatever happened at this presentation, Helios did not intend to stay long. Besides, he could not. He had to board another EM-egg in two days’ time. His best friend since university, Phoebe Delacroix, had called him just before he boarded the EM-egg. She had sounded very mysterious but also excited.
For the last couple of weeks, she had been on a scientific outpost in a Southern area of New Atlantis, half a world away. And she had discovered something. She had not told him what, but she wanted him to come as soon as possible. His guess was that she might have discovered a new dinosaur fossil. After all, the lands of the Atlanteans were filled with dinosaur fossils and Phoebe had managed to get herself and her team of scientists an exploration visa by the council of New Atlantis. This was not easy to get but then again Phoebe had a foot in the door as her mother was Atlantean. The intermixing of Atlanteans and Europeans was rare but it happened.
When the news had come out a lot of European and Alexandrian palaeontologists were very jealous of Phoebe. All of Europe and Africa had been searched, every stone had been turned around thrice in the course of the centuries. There was nothing more that the earth could reveal here. Palaeontologists would have to get explorer visas from the Atlanteans which they rarely handed out to search the continents across the ocean for fossils. Or, and this was why so many palaeontologists had become more and more interested in the theory of time travel: When there was nothing more to discover in the present about the past, one was inevitably confronted by the possibility of actually setting out into the past. This at least was the argument of most SAM party members in new debate wars about allowing nuclear time travel experiments again.
Helios stepped out of the EM-egg port and breathed in the warm and salty air of Alexandria. The night sky sparkled with light blue and golden stars. In the distance he could make out the silhouettes of palm trees, moving gently in the warm wind. He looked to his left. There were the city lights and a little bit further in the distance, standing higher than all the other buildings of the city, was the great square tower, the library of Alexandria. Its black and white marble walls, like a fading chess board, were illuminated by white light. At every corner of the roof, four great fires flickered in the night. It gave the tower an atmosphere of the ancient times. Helios was not even sure if he could think of any other building or place where wood and coal was still burned. It caused unwanted pollution. However, the Republic of Alexandria would always make an exception for their tower, for the centre of science, democracy and wisdom. Maybe the tower’s four fires even symbolised something Helios did not know about. He could ask someone at the presentation. It might be a good beginning to a conversation with his mother or Antonius. He had no idea how to talk to them. Small talk about the tower might be a good beginning.
Helios would book an EM-orb that would take him to a hotel in the city centre. Just like EM-eggs, EM-orbs were powered by electromagnetic energy but were used for transport on the ground not in the sky and were circular shaped.
Helios could not help it. He looked over to the city’s lights again. He had never intended to come here again after his father’s funeral. He has not seen Alexandria’s lights in seven years. But now at the sight of this tower, excitement grew deep inside of him. It was the tower, the library of Alexandria, the heart of knowledge, standing strong for over three thousand years. It was a sight a scientist simply had to smile about.
Suddenly, a jet-black EM-orb rolled up in front of Helios. It stopped and a man with short honey blond hair stepped out. He wore a midnight blue suit made of artificial silk. He appeared elegant and strong. Cobalt blue eyes beamed at Helios.
‘It’s good to see you again.’ Antonius said and smiled at him disarmingly.
To be continued…