Steve, as everybody else, was getting more and more disconcerted to see the UNO representatives climbing on stage in place of Jean and his staff.
To be frank, the very direct announcements of the day before had started a huge mess around the world. There was first the incredible interpretation of some newspapers, about the Earth being on the verge of disappearing in some days, with some strange catastrophe about to occur. The damage was limited, as Jean announcement was live in front of million of people in almost all the countries of the world. But businessmen, militaries, government officials and populist scoundrels were seldom interested in astronomy, and they got only the phantasmatic version, and immediately added their own phantasms.
At first, all the stock exchanges in Europe, Africa and America immediately collapsed, to an incredible level never seen since the great ecological crisis in 2020. Asian places were just doing the same at the very moment they were attending the question-answer sessions. In second, all main countries governments and UNO started emergency sessions to manage this affair. Steve wondered what they could manage, as they did not knew what was to manage. But they managed, and immediately found what to manage: millions of people were fleeing towns, toward countryside, toward space centers, in hope to avoid... to avoid what?
Steve was thinking that these reactions were quite futile, as all these peoples did not knew what was the danger, if there really was a danger. Maybe Jean did absolutely not expected such incredible reactions, but he was not very faulty to do so. What was on the contrary getting Steve on his nerves was to see these dark suited people taking the place of the scientists in this conference which was not their domain. That they attend, OK, but that they immix, no. Steve was not alone to think like this, and his colleagues were also discussing together about this. Liu with her Chinese colleagues, Erzeran in Persian, Amédée in his African language, Octavo in Brazilian, but it was not difficult to guess what they were exchanging. Another American engineer summarized for Steve the common opinion: «What is this mess? What are these buggers doing there in place of Jean Delcourt?»
As the time of the beginning of the session approached, Angela Dexter was about to climb on stage, followed by Tcheugyal. But she was forbidden to get on the stage, and angrily asked for explanations for this intrusion. Tcheugyal only swiftly disappeared.
In a loud background noise, one of the officials, a high ranking civil servant of the UNO, already involved in negotiations in several problems, started to speak.
«Ladies et gentlemen, we have now to face a very serious problem. For this reason, we took the initiative to take the direction of this conference and of the researches on...» But it was impossible to continue, with the loud protests, and Angela shouting «This is illegal, you do not have the right, this is a scientific conference, you cannot...» Steve felt proud of his former student!
The speaker managed to add: «please do not react in an irrational affective way and...» but he was immediately covered by huge shouts and boos of anger, Including Steve, who was long ago disgusted by this kind of warped mind control methods, rejected for tens of years by all the scientists, but still widely used by some dishonest politicians to manipulate ordinary people.
«There is no other way to continue this conference since the assassination of Jean Delcourt...»
There was a sudden silence with this incredible new.
Jean was their colleague since long ago, and the very spirit of this affair of missing planet. And they could not imagine any reason for anybody to assassinate him. Whatever the truth was, it is necessary to know it, in order to know the best way to act. Jean was certainly a key people to know the truth, and eliminating his knowledge was certainly the most irrational way to behave.
But worse of all, that such an horrible act could be perpetred in a scientific conference, nearby in front of their eyes, in this peaceful country of Madagascar, was something astounding, ashaming. These politicians were composing very sorry faces, but the following speech was not very compassionate:
«It was necessary to ask our permission before unveiling your discovery. You see now the consequences of your lack of responsibility: a huge financial crisis, panic in the world, armies in alert...»
The noise in the room started again: nobody felt guilty with such reactions, which were not theirs, that they could even not imagine. Even in assuming that their discovery was alarming, there was no reason to add social of financial trouble to this danger. To elder scientists, this was only a bad remake of the old timed policy of before the 2020': to eliminate whose who show the problems, in order to «avoid panic». This policy of burying one's head under the sand, continued from the 1970' to the 2020', was, they all knew this too much, the main cause of the ecological disasters they all had to face, and anyway a completely criminal, irresponsible and irrational behavior.
«The first thing to do is to clearly identify the danger. And the second thing to do is to take appropriate measures to face this danger.
«It is quite clear that advanced planets were destroyed, but we do not know how this happened. For this reason, we must redirect scientific search in order to find details indicating what could have happened. Maybe a kind of new scientific discovery was the cause of this destruction. You know that we just in time escaped to ecological destruction of Earth, by greenhouse effect and oceanic clathrates release. Some more unforeseeable problem could occur, as pointed out by your brilliant colleague Steve Jason.»
Steve did not felt happy with this sugared compliment. There was in this speech all the manipulative stuff he hoped never to hear again from politicians. He also noted that these politicians (the same?) who were the main obstacle to ecological reforms before the crisis in 2020-2030 were now taking pretext of this ecology to still and again impose their views, and to give their own commands to world's peoples, like in the army.
«You must now look thoroughly into Centaurian libraries, in order to find what their exact scientific level was at the time of the catastrophe, in place of searching for their religious beliefs and...»
Sheik Abbas Abdullah, a minister from Arabia, always dressed in his white Arabian traditional suit, and very well known for his often uncompromising views, suddenly get up to shout, covering even the loudspeakers with his strong male voice:
«And if it is God who takes the planet when they are cleansed of evil?»
Everybody smiled and laughed, but for very opposite reasons. The speakers and main officials had a painful smile of commiseration and pity. Most religious peoples of course found the idea very pleasant, and Steve could hear Erzeran's clear laughter. Even non-religious peoples like Steve found very funny the confrontation of honest faith versus hypocritical rationalism. Sheik Abbas Abdullah's roaring laughter was at ease: Arabia was clever enough to massively invest in solar energy in their huge deserts, at a time where rich countries were still jailing anti-greenhouse activists. And when came the interdiction of fossil oil and coal, they immediately became the owner of a quasi-monopoly on solar oil... while running some major banks in the world, together with great Islamic schools in the USA. So warped politicians had many reasons to hate Sheik Abbas... and many reasons to hypocritically smile at him.
«Of course to study religious beliefs of other peoples in the stars is surely very interesting, but the subject of this conference is now to prevent the catastrophe which (laughing from Sheik Abbas, without comment) I said the catastrophe which may destroy our mother earth maybe very soon. We have now to redirect searches about Centaurian library, to look for scientific details, or maybe social facts or crisis, which may indicate us what happened. Our main hypothesis here (after, of course, that of Mr. Jason) is that a wandering extraterrestrial civilization may seize planets after they reach a given level. We must now speak of abducted planets. These planets were hijacked from their orbits, by still unknown means, but a mastery of star energy would allow for this. For instance a very heavy spaceship, or a small black hole, passes near a planet, and gives it an impulse so what it escapes from its star».
Only a science-fiction reader could imagine such a cumbersome hypothesis, which was not consistent with the facts. If such, satellites would also disappear with their planets, or be dispersed in their star system. Nothing such happened, and the planets really disappeared on the place, letting their satellites (natural or artificial) go on very precise stellar orbits. Given the murmurs, Steve was not alone to think that. But try to explain astronautics to a wicked politician!
«For what purpose to abduct planets? We do not know, but this may have reasons related to the scientific or economic level of a planet, or maybe special climate conditions created by pollution, as now on our Earth. But the main data were in the hand of Mr. Delcourt before he was stabbed to death and...»
The curtain behind the speaker suddenly waved and a loud voice roared in the loudspeakers:
«How do you know that I was stabbed?»
There was a huge surprise in the hall, with this incredible apparition: Jean Delcourt sprang out from behind the curtain, pale and painfully grasping his chest with his left hand, but alive. One of the UNO officials shouted with terror as if he discovered some devil.
«Here he is. This guy. And him also».
Black Malagasy policemen suddenly entered the hall from all the doors, jumping on stage. They immediately busted all the team of black-suited politicians, with still Jean pointing some of them with his accusing finger. It was not unpleasant to see these black policemen arresting these white corrupted leaders. The Malagasy managers of the conference were with the policemen, explaining angrily how their conference had been hijacked. Some shouts were to be heard, including a very stupid «we had to stop this conspiracy of the religious for a collective suicide...». Jean finally asked the chief of the police the permission to make an address to everybody about what happened.
The crowd was so much astounded with so many precipitated events that he had no difficulty to obtain some silence.
«Dear ex-representatives of the UNO (there was some laughters, as even in suffering Jean did not lost his sense of humor) dear representatives of governments and international organizations, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. What happened soon this morning was quite simple: I was attacked by a group of three persons, Mr. Mac Cairn, Mr. Harrison and maybe some local fascist I do not know. It was just behind this building, in the flower garden where I use to practice some yoga soon in the morning. I was stabbed twice with a kitchen knife by the fascist, who tried to reach my heart, in order to kill me. But this hopeless guy was just awkward: the blade was too large to pass between my ribs.
«I just had to play the dead: eyes wide open, I looked who was checking I was really dead. You know I have some gift for this kind of jokes. And these stupids were made easily.
«I was immediately rescued by students and treated in the nearby hospital of the medicine university, who did a nice job. In order to confound the culprits, I said to everybody that I was attacked with a silencer gun, and only the surgeon knew the truth. And hearing what happened here, I just asked to be transported on the place.
«I am sorry not to be able to lead the discussion here, as I need some rest. If things are OK, I shall attend this afternoon, myself or some colleagues.
«Oh, I forgot:
«Don't let them make their stupid crisis or panic. It is just useless, even if there was a real danger.»
Jean was understood: Arabian and Russian stock exchanges simply did not opened that morning, thus killing from the very start any panic in this part of the world. In Arabia, armed force even took position in the public places, but without purpose: nobody moved. Muslim religious leaders even declared that day a prayer day, «to avoid further disorders».
This morning was a morning of heavy work for the team.
In the absence of Jean Delcourt, Angela Dexter's husband, John Dexter, was to take the direction of the team. John was a slim young man with short beard and mustaches, and in fact only him was American, Angela was from Peru, and said to be in connection in the Inca tradition revival. Some even said that she was a kind of Inca princess, but she reluctantly commented this, and never actually confirmed. Steve was absolutely not astonished with this, as there was everywhere in the word revival of ancient traditions, often supported by the concerned governments, and even now there was native Indian ministers in the USA (a thing which much astonished the world).
John Dexter was a very practical and organized person. He had prepared e-books containing all the images of the Centaurian Library, with hypertext links from each symbol towards its explanation. So Steve got one of these e-books and just had to immediately put himself at work, searching for any non-Earth scientific new discovery.
Steve passed all the morning fetching images in the enormous e-book, following links and back links, but did not found any real theoretical scientific progress. There was of course more technological advance, plans of new machines, very interesting formulas of superconductive materials and fine chemistry, explanations in quantum mechanics and physics, more complete that the ones he knew, but nothing which could lead to really unexpected discoveries in physics. The Centaurians built very powerful particles accelerators, and Steve carefully surveyed this section. But he found nothing indicating an ongoing very new experiment able to lead to unexpected results. He finally found that, it was clearly indicated, these machines were all shut down since years at the time of the «abstract transition». At least this dispute was settled.
Steve realized an important detail: time was required to build all the libraries and drawings on the Centaurus moon. Tens of years, maybe centuries. So it was very clear that the Centaurians foreseen the disappearance of their planet for long ago, this eliminating any hypothesis such as unexpected catastrophe or interstellar attack.
At time of lunch, Steve rose from his e-book, tired and somewhat discouraged. Years would be necessary to study all the images, that quantum telescopes were still pouring at a devastating rate of millions a day, and it was only a sample of what contained the huge underground libraries, of which whole sections were still completely unexplored.
What Steve had in hand was a completely absurd product of computer technology: an e-book containing hundred times much more text that he would really be able to read all his life long.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux.
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