The Terrapenta Project

This is the 1st novel in the new series I have written. I am currently working on the 2nd novel, but for now I will be uploading The Terrapenta Project one chapter at a time. Each will remain on this page for a few days before being replaced by the next. I am always open to comments via the contact page concerning my work, and I will gladly reply to any questions. I hope you enjoy the book.

23rd January 2020

Chapter 5 - The Senators

Senator Edward Addison stepped into his outer office smartly dressed wearing a long, dark grey jacket over a pristine white collarless shirt and trousers that matched his jacket. As soon as she saw him, Marlene, his office manager, almost leapt from behind her desk and moved to block the path into his private office.

“Oh!” The senator stepped back in surprise. “Good morning.” His words were more a question than a greeting as he noticed her concerned expression. She was a handsome woman with a strong, almost masculine face and shiny black hair cut in a bob. Her features seemed to match her tall, slim body with her arrow straight nose and slightly pointed chin above a long elegant neck. She seemed a little agitated, different from the usually cool, calm and collected woman who sat at her desk in full control of the running of the senator’s office.

If truth be told, Edward would have been lost without her as he fully appreciated the organisation she brought to his work and even his life. After his wife was taken as an Offering six years earlier, he could barely get up in the morning, but it was she who had stirred him back to life in his very public position. At his darkest moments she’d even come to his home and virtually ordered him back into work.

“I’m so sorry, Edward.” Her head turned ever so slightly as if she was about to look behind her at his office door. “He barged in and strode past me before I had a chance to speak.”

The senator looked at the inner office door curiously. “Who?”

“Senator Lovelace, and he didn’t look happy.”

Edward turned purposefully towards his private office not hearing Marlene ask if there was anything he wanted her to do. Slamming the door behind him, he glared at his unwanted visitor sitting at his desk looking through some files that did not belong to him. The man lifted his head and stared through his glasses at Edward who marched forward and placed himself right in front of his desk.

“I would normally ask if there was anything I could help you with, Lovelace, but it appears you are helping yourself.”

“Less of the pleasantries, Addison. I thought I made it clear when we met at that party you threw for your daughter that I wanted a unanimous vote from the senate.”

“You did make it clear, Senator.” Edward was keeping his cool, determined not to completely give in to his anger, despite the unacceptable intrusion into his private office.

“Why, therefore, does it appear you not only have no intention of complying with my demands, but have sought to poison the minds of our fellow senators by feeding them with your anti-social ideas?”

“Since when have I been compelled to bow to your demands?”

Senator Lovelace stood and fixed his eyes on Edward across the desk. “Perhaps request, rather than demand, would have been a better word to use.”

“Demand, request, the same thing in your vocabulary. You’re telling me to forgo my constitutional right to vote freely as a senator.”

“We must be seen in government to be solid in our commitment to continuing the smooth running of Terrapenta. Any sign of weakness on our part could be sowing the seeds of destruction for everything we have built in our society.”

“I don’t want to bring down Terrapenta, or society for that matter. I want reforms regarding choosing the Offerings. There are too many families being blighted by this unfair system of selection.”

“The system is not unfair,” Lovelace raised his voice.

“Ninety eight per cent of Offerings did not want to be selected. That means only two per cent did. All I’m saying is if two per cent of the population would actually like to become Offerings, make the selections from them alone. In terms of numbers, that still works out at twenty million people to choose from. Twenty million people alive today that would relish becoming an Offering. You need fifty a month.”

“And if the rules changed, what would be the reaction of those families who had lost people to Terrapenta. They would demand that they be returned to New Earth, it would cause unrest. It could eventually bring down the whole concept of the project.”

“It would not.” Edward’s voice was beginning to rise. “I have already thought of a strategy that would bring about change gradually.”

Senator Lovelace sighed and looked condescendingly at the younger senator. “Perhaps you have, but we do not need strategies for change. Let me remind you that before Terrapenta came into being, life on this planet was almost wiped out through wars, pestilence, climate change, to name but a few, and all of which we brought upon ourselves. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Every problem was caused by human beings and the way we acted. And yet it wasn’t our fault, it is in our DNA to act as we do. We are a violent, greedy, lustful race, but the awful mess we got ourselves into actually triggered something, I don’t know what the psychologists called it, but it was a failsafe inside us all. We realised we were about to destroy ourselves, but we somehow managed to pull back from the brink, just in time.”

Edward was holding up his hands to stop Lovelace’s speech, but the only way was to interrupt him verbally. “Senator, please, I know our history. The result was New Earth, a utopian society where everybody lives in peace, offering tolerance and enjoying prosperity. You are preaching to the converted.”

“Damn it, Addison! I am not,” Lovelace roared. “Something inside us still craves that violence and cruelty, which is why the scientists and psychologists of the day came up with the Terrapenta Project. They knew, no matter how stable, safe and sane society was, we would eventually revert to those bad days. We had to have an outlet for our blood lust.”

“Again, Senator, I have no argument with that. I accept we release those feelings of violence and aggression by following the lives of those who live in that godforsaken land.”

“But knowing every citizen in New Earth, whatever position or status, has equal chance of selection with no exceptions, that’s what makes it acceptable to all.”

“I agree with everything you have said up to that point.”

“You must agree with every point.” Lovelace hit his fist against the desk. “The whole Project comes as a package, you are either for it or against it. The most crucial factor is that anyone can become an Offering, which is why the whole world follows it, we are all in it together. Public opinion has not changed for two hundred and fifty years.”

“I don’t know how many times I have said this to you, I am not against its existence, I am against its selection process.”

“You haven’t been listening, Senator Addison. I warn you, cease infecting others with your dangerous ideas. I want one hundred votes in favour at the forthcoming decennial vote. None against.”

“Senator …”

“This only came about because of your wife.” The words cut through Edward like a knife.

“Do not bring my wife into this, Lovelace.” His response was almost threatening.

“Many people have lost family to Terrapenta, why is your loss any worse than theirs?”

“I said, leave my wife out of this.” Edward was feeling his blood beginning to simmer in his veins.

Lovelace leaned forward and rested his hands on the desk, arms rigid, his face moved closer to his adversary. “Make sure you use your vote wisely, Addison, or …”

“Or …?”

For the first time, Senator Lovelace smiled. He moved around the desk and walked slowly and confidently to the door, but Edward wanted him to finish his sentence.

He stepped in front of the smaller man, barring his path. “Or what?”

“Get out of my way.”

“When you complete your threat.”

“What makes you think it was a threat?”

Edward reached out and put his hand on Lovelace’s chest and gave him the merest of pushes, he wanted to do more as images and feelings for his wife buffeted about in his mind.

“Stand down, Addison.”

Just at that moment, the door opened and Marlene strode purposefully into the room. “Is there anything I can get you both, Senators?” she asked, pleasantly.

“Yes, Marlene, you can show Senator Lovelace out.”

Alone in his office, Edward picked up one of the photographs from a shelf fixed to the pastel green wall next to his desk; it was his favourite picture. Taken on the lush green lawn of his home on a beautiful sunny day, it showed him and his wife, Bernice, on a large shaded lounger. She was holding their newly born baby, Abigail, with their two year old daughter, Corinne, squeezed between him and his wife. On his knee, leaning against him with her arm around his neck, was his eldest daughter, Shanree, aged ten, she was the spitting image of her mother. It was the happiest of times.

But, within two years of that photograph being taken, their world had fallen apart. His mind drifted to the day the electronic message from Terrapenta Prime arrived, it had been a very normal day until then, but it was a day that would come to live vividly in his memory.

As soon as the priority message tone had sounded from the lounge while having their evening meal in the next room, they left their seats and rushed to see what it was. Occasionally, in his role as senator, Edward would get urgent communications, but this had been a different audible alert, and the whole family knew it was more important than government business.

Even baby Abigail, who had reached the age of two, sitting in her high chair next to her mum, had sensed something amiss, she’d begun to cry. In the lounge, as they looked at the word – Mail – written in blue against a rippling red background, four year old Corinne had thrown herself against her mother while Shanree had slipped her warm hand inside her father’s.

Despite the screen alert flashing intermittently between – Mail - and the recipient at intervals of just a second, it had seemed an interminable age as they waited for the name to flash up. Then it had appeared: - Bernice - for one second, then – Mail – as it continued to switch from one to the other. Edward’s heart had stopped, no, his life had stopped as his heart carried on. When Bernice opened the message for them all to see, Shanree buried herself in her father and refused to even look at her mother. He placed a hand on her head.

He remembered the look of utter devastation on Bernice’s face as she’d turned to him, tears were in her eyes, it had happened, the impossible, and yet it wasn’t impossible. The odds had been twenty million to one of being selected in that draw, and she’d struck those odds. She’d been chosen as an Offering, and from that moment as a New Earther, she was technically deceased.

They’d known, within the following two hours, officials from the Terrapenta Project would call at the house, probably less as they lived not too far from the central city of the Bretton region. In those seconds of stunned silence, they knew they had only a very short time together as a complete family. For the next hour and twenty two minutes, the five had sat wrapped together on the large sofa in silence, their unfinished meals left on the dining room table, they were no longer hungry.

When the two officials had arrived, one male, the other female, there had been little formalities. They’d been polite enough, showing some compassion to the family, they hadn’t rushed them to say their goodbyes, and yet they’d also shown a stony coldness to what they were doing. They’d even wished the family who were left behind, ‘good day’.

Edward put the photograph down on the shelf with a shaking hand and stood looking out of the panoramic window of his eighteenth floor office. It was a magnificent view showing the sprawling layout of the tall buildings interspersed with lush garden squares of the business quarter. It was a vibrant, exciting city in a world of wealth and good living, the almost natural mix of nature and human creation packaged in a communion of both.

The sight reminded him of how it used to be, and how, in these later years, he would try to imagine Bernice wasn’t with him at that moment only because she was somewhere else in New Earth. Perhaps on a holiday with the children, or at her job, or taking part in one of the many leisure activities designed to keep heart and mind healthy for the citizens of the utopian society in which they lived. It was a strategy he’d devised to help him imagine she was still in his life and that nothing had changed, and that everything was normal. It was an improvement on how the counsellors had tried to help, feeding him rubbish, it was more like propaganda. The only problem with his method of dealing with his loss, was when he went home and she wasn’t there, there was no way to escape it, especially when he saw the faces of his children. That was what kept him going in the end, his beautiful daughters, without their need for him, he would have had nothing to live for.

As he looked up into the crystal clear, pollution free, deep blue sky, he heard the door open behind. Marlene entered and gave a little cough just in case he hadn’t heard her. Edward spun round, bringing himself out of his melancholy, he was getting better at it these days, and looked expectantly at her.

“Are you ok, Edward?”

He kept his eyes thoughtfully on his office manager, she’d been so much a part of his semi-recovery, and she was still concerned for his well-being. He gave her the merest of smiles. “I’ll be fine.”

Marlene nodded her head and backed towards the door, pausing for a moment. “I couldn’t help but overhear.”

“Am I doing the right thing?”

“With what regard?” She knew what he was talking about, but on such a sensitive subject, she was going to let Edward be more specific.

“The vote.”

“It’s always been straightforward hasn’t it, everyone voting for?”

“That’s my dilemma, Marlene. Every ten years, the senate votes whether to continue the Terrapenta Project without change, and every ten years since it began, one hundred have voted in favour.”

“What are you going to do?”

“My heart says one thing, my head says another.”

“Which one are you going to listen to?”

“If only I knew.”

“I’m sure you’ll do the right thing, Edward.” She pulled the door closed gently as she left.

“I don’t know what the right thing is, that’s the problem,” he said quietly to himself.

He sat down at his desk and looked across at the photograph of the smiling family squeezed together on the lounger. As devastated as she was, Bernice was also proud to have become an Offering, it was drummed into every citizen of New Earth from their first days in school: ‘Be proud and willing to do your duty if called upon for the good of all.’ That was the motto, be proud and give up your life for the benefit of others.

Copyright © 2014 Kevin Fleming

All rights reserved. Kevin Fleming has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. This is a work of fiction. Any names, places, events or happenings in this book are a product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or persons either living or dead are purely coincidental. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Chapter 6 will be uploaded on Tuesday 28th January

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