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Chapter 1

The story of Nino and of his family
Schio, Italy, October 15 2013 AD h 9 am

Nino Maltini was ambling dreamily along the riverbank in Schio, a little town in the North of Italy, where he was living with his family. Family, so to speak: his parents had died less than a year previously in a tragic road accident, when his father Arturo had seemingly dozed off behind the wheel and driven his car into a ditch in the region of Trentino, a little North of Schio. Besides Arturo in the car there were Enrica, Nino’s mother and Sarah his step sister, his mother's daughter from her first marriage to an Englishmen. Arturo and Enrica had died instantly; Sarah however, was completely uninjured physically. She had been sitting in the back and had suffered no significant damage, apart from severe shock and a selective amnesia which had erased all memory of the accident.
So Nino found himself living alone in a big house on the outskirts of Schio, and the only family he had was a little female dog who had been purchased by his parents a year before they had died.
Nino was really attached to Cookie, this sweet little dog who had come from a breeder in Germany, and to be honest, entertaining Cookie and taking her for her walkies was almost his only activity. Even though Nino was on the wrong side of thirty, he had never managed to hold down regular employment; not because he was incapable of work, or because of an inherent laziness on his part, but because he always had his head in the clouds, he was often in a dream world far removed from his job and from any other activity he might have tried to perform. Various kindly employers, friends and family acquaintances, had tried to reason with him, tried to give him a job, but it had always ended the same way, contrary to their personal feelings towards him they just had to fire him. Others however, not tied by friendship or kinship, fired him without compunction, calling him lazy and a parasite. It really wasn't the case at all: Nino was neither lazy nor a parasite: he was just… so, fluffy headed, he loved to gaze at the marvels of nature around him; he studied the distant stars in astonishment, asking himself why men got so preoccupied with futile activities when confronted by such immense and majestic beauty. In his opinion everybody should stop, look up at the sky and ask themselves what was worthier than that glorious immensity in front of them. If they had done so, Nino was sure that the world would have been a better place and that all injustice would have ceased to exist.
He had few friends, because most of his acquaintances regarded him with pity: “Poor child, poor boy, poor man, he's' such a... misfit, he’s barmy!”
He only had two real friends: Michael, a teenager, an accomplished computer hacker, who lived on coffee and computer, computer and coffee… he knew all the games, programs, languages. He couldn’t care less about school, which he seldom attended; he used to hack into the school’s programmes, modify his marks and attendance and successfully hide all trace of his incursions, so that surprisingly, no one suspected any foul play even though he was almost never at school. Nino and Michael suited each other well: between sandwiches and coffee, Michael used to explain all of the ingenious and technical ways he was able to hack who knows what IT network, and Nino just listened to him in wonder, without understanding a single word of what Michael was telling him, but happy to listen to his passion and enthusiasm.
Another (last but not least) of Nino’s friends was Franca, a vet, a partner in the Grifonevet Clinic in Schio, who attended to Cookie, Nino’s dog. Although absent-minded and kind of… dopey (even though he did not drink or smoke, either tobacco or drugs), Nino was as precise as a Swiss watch with Cookie’s care: he regularly took her to Franca for vaccinations, recalls, counter-recalls; any doubt as to possible intestinal parasites was immediately erased, or confirmed by Franca, with regular stool sample tests. Ears, eyes and mucosa, temperature check ups were regular and almost … excessive. Franca, who loved animals and attended to them night and day (guaranteed availability 24/7), found this young man very appealing, and she always listened to him enraptured as he explained to her what he had seen in Cookies eyes that day. To Franca, Nino’s words were pure poetry, love translated into syllables and sounds, and she could not understand why everybody thought he was crazy – maybe they were crazy.
And then there was Cookie! When Arturo had brought Cookie home from a trip to Düsseldorf in Germany, Nino's life had been transformed. For the first time he had found something meaningful in his life: to look after Cookie, take her for walks, brush her, and fuss her. Nino’s parents used to watch him despairingly, thinking that maybe they had done something wrong in their way of raising their ‘strange’ son. A man who was over thirty, still living with his parents, without a job, without a girlfriend, pitied and condescended to by almost everybody. Enrica loved him as only a mother could and was happy that he was still at home with them. She often hugged him tight, kissing him on his forehead like a baby.
Cookie had filled a space in Nino’s heart, and Enrica understood that, so she was extremely grateful to the little dog. Besides Nino’s care, Cookie also basked in Enrica’s attention, and a piece of steak or a meatball often 'fell' from the kitchen table. “Oh deary me!” Enrica would exclaim. “That dog is too quick!” Arturo would smile to himself, thinking that, for all their peculiarities his family was happy, and he was a lucky man: until that fateful day – one sleepy moment had changed everything.
Now Nino was alone with Cookie. Sarah Howden, his half sister, visited every now and then, with her husband, Giacomo, a successful IT engineer. Sarah was five years older than Nino, and even though they had spent most of their childhood and teenage years together, she still felt a bit uncomfortable around him. He was Enrica and Arturo's son, and she always felt like the odd one of the family. Her father, Frank Howden, had died under mysterious circumstances, and only a year after her father’s death her mother had married Arturo, a childhood friend. Somehow in her heart Sarah was a little bit envious of Nino, who was so close to his father and had such a good relationship with him.
She could not remember the accident, that trip to Trentino, on their way to join Giacomo, who had arrived at the Canazei ski slopes ahead of them. Instead they ended up in a ditch in Cembra valley. “Maybe it's just as well that I don’t remember anything”, she thought, even though in the depth of her heart the inability to remember only served to magnify the feelings of desolation and loss of her mother and Arturo.
So Sarah did not see Nino much, she was too absorbed in her own life and with Giacomo’s and she happily travelled around the world with him, accompanying him to all the IT and programming conventions and fairs he attended.
Nino, jobless and practically without a family, was managing thanks to the money he had inherited from his parents. He didn’t have huge expenses, the house was paid for, so was the car, and Franca the vet helped him with special discounts and often free visits, under the disapproving looks of Franca’s partner and colleague, Sonia.
That particular day Nino was walking along the riverbank of the Leogra. That was one of Cookie’s favourite places, because besides being a place full of things to see and to sniff at, there was water and there was an area where she was allowed off the lead, and under Nino’s careful gaze she could run and play freely.
Whilst Cookie was busying herself in searching for some new scent in that familiar spot, Nino pondered over his miseries, the vacuum left by his parents, and, more pressingly, about the strong headache that had been tormenting him for a couple of days. He had never suffered with headaches, migraines or any similar problems. He had tried taking pain killers, the only result of which was to inflict him with heartburn. The first day he had hoped that after a good night’s sleep the pain would have gone, but no such luck. Even Cookie seemed to realise that something was wrong, and instead of sleeping at the bottom of his king size bed in her usual corner, she stayed close by and licked Nino’s face and neck soothingly.
The following day was ten times worse: it seemed as though someone was hammering a swarm of bees into his brain. Walking with Cookie along the riverbank, he had an idea. “I'll put my head in the river, I'll keep it under for at least ten seconds, and when I pull it out the pain should be gone!...Yeah, silly old fool!” thought Nino again, “so, besides a thundering headache, I also get poisoned by the polluted river water”. Unfortunately Nino was quite right: despite the beauty of the landscape around him, the water of the rivers and streams in this area was outstandingly polluted, even though it looked clean, and it was not worth risking being poisoned or developing some loathsome skin disease. Even Cookie, completely unaware of the factories in Schio and of the effluent they poured into the rivers, was not about to drink the water. She knew that Nino always carried a bowl with fresh water, even while walking along the riverbank, and he had taught her very clearly that the word “NO!” meant the immediate cessation of any activity that Cookie was contemplating.
“Well” thought Nino, “I’ll have to see the doctor, who will prescribe me some tablets… more expenses.” Nino had never worried about money or expenses. Arturo had been a successful accountant, sought after by people in the whole province of Vicenza, and he had ensured that his family never lacked anything, either emotionally or financially. But now Arturo was gone, and the savings he and his wife had left were dwindling. Nino was worried about that, above all for Cookie’s sake: without money, how could he get her the best food on the market and her new Frisbees (Cookie was crazy about Frisbees) and all the vets bills, even though they were reduced thanks to the generosity of Franca?
There didn't seem to be any other solution: “I’ll have to go to Dr. Marchetti, and tell him how I feel: this dreadful, buzzing headache, it almost seems like a tangle of unintelligible words buzzing through my head. Let’s go, Cooks (Nino had many pet names for Cookie), we’re going home!”
As soon as they got home and into the sitting-room, Nino picked up a fine leather bone, Cookie’s favourite, and gave it to her with a paternal smile. Cookie was instinctively glad, but at the same time she knew that move meant: “Stay here and be good for a while, as Nino has to go out alone!” However there was no choice in the matter. Nino was pack leader, and he made the decisions.
Nino left her alone and drove towards Thiene, a little town nearby, where his doctor’s surgery was.
“Do you have an appointment?” Yawned Dr. Marchetti’s secretary.
“No, I don’t, but I do have a serious headache, and I need the doctor”, replied Nino feebly.
“Yeah, yeah, they all say it's serious, don't they. Well, just sit there; the doctor will see you soon.”
While the secretary was talking, Nino suddenly realized that his headache had gone, vanished, with not even a slight residual heaviness. A documentary he'd seen about American tornadoes came to his mind: the mighty, destructive power of nature, which makes houses, trucks, people and cars fly, and which vanishes suddenly, leaving a clear blue sky and astonished people, looking happy just to be alive.
“Nino, how is it going?” asked the doctor as he appeared from his surgery.
“Well, doc, I came straight to you, because I have been experiencing the most dreadful headache for a couple of days now, and it was getting too much to bear.”
“What kind of pain is it exactly?” asked the doctor.
“It’s sort of embarrassing but it's gone now, but it felt like a swarm of bees and like someone had taken a lump hammer to my forehead.”
“But it’s gone, just like that…”
“Yes, doc, all of a sudden, while I was speaking to your secretary.”
“Well, listen, Nino” the doctor said patiently, “I'll give you my mobile phone number. Call me if your headache comes back, and in the meantime try to relax.” Doctor Marchetti was very familiar with Nino’s personal tragedy, and he thought that a temporary headache could be due to depression and melancholia.
Nino went back to his car and almost jumped for joy: he'd finally got rid of his headache, and he didn’t have to buy any medicine: double bingo!!
“I'll go straight back to Cookie and give her a bit of a run with her Frisbee!” he thought happily.
Cookie loved Frisbee. She liked to run after a Frisbee, to jump and catch it in mid air and to bring it back to Nino or to anybody who threw it, and again, and again… till she wore herself out. Nino and Cookie couldn't care less about competitions. Those were interesting for humans; they trained the animals not for the animals’ enjoyment, but for their own. “Is it possible that man can be so selfcentred” thought Nino whilst driving back home, “that everything must revolve around him? We live on a spit of a planet, which is on a spit of a solar system in a spit of a galaxy, and there are around 100 billion galaxies in the known universe, and all of it should rotate around man! What colossal arrogance! We just have to look up at the stars to understand how small we are! For the Creator we are like a flea on the back of another flea, and we feel we are as important as Him, at times even more important than Him!”
As soon as he opened the front door, Cookie ran towards him barking and yapping insanely from joy, as if she had not seen him for a month, instead of just one hour!
After the fuss and greetings, she gazed at Nino fixedly, as if she wanted something from him, but Nino just didn’t get it. So, to help him understand, she started to jump up and down in front of the frisbee cupboard. How could she know that Nino wanted to play Frisbee? Because of the bad weather it had been two months that they hadn't been able to play Frisbee in the garden, which had now been transformed into a quagmire. It was a beautiful day, and Nino had instinctively thought of Frisbee, but to be honest it was not worth going out because of the terrible state the garden was in. How did she know? “Dunno, she might have thought of it instinctively, just like me” thought Nino, hanging his jacket on the hook.
“Oh no, here comes my headache again!” moaned Nino out loud, “No! Not again!!”
Cookie sat close by him, licking his face and looking at him intensely. Cookie and Nino often gazed into each others eyes. By looking deeply into the eyes of an animal, Nino felt the same feelings he had when looking at the stars. In those eyes he could see a huge unknown world, full of truths and realities which seemed so important but at the same time so distant from the world around him.
Cookie kept on gazing at him fixedly until he had to look away. He picked up his phone, Dr. Marchetti's number was still on the screen and he tried to call him. “This is Dr. Marchetti; I cannot take your call right now…”
“Bother!” muttered Nino, and he closed his eyes. He opened them instantly! He had seen an image, like in a dream, difficult to recall exactly, but it was there! Cookie had fixed him with a stare so completely still that it spooked him: he had never seen her quite so immobile; she looked like a waxwork, like the ones in Madame Tussauds, which he had seen in London on a holiday with his parents. The digital clock on the wall was showing the time: 12.30.15. It had frozen. Panic rendered him mute, unable to scream, to call for help, nothing. Instinctively he closed his eyes and opened them again. Now Cookie didn't seem quite so still, he could see her chest moving up and down as she breathed, and the clock was showing 12.30.20,21,22,23….
“I don’t feel well!” Nino thought, trying to reassure himself, “it's probably the flu… headache, delusion, immobility, maybe I have a temperature … come on Cook, you scared me!” Cookie licked his nose. “You were as still as though you had been stuffed: see what a bit of temperature can do! I'll check it, I'll have a nice cup of herbal tea and I'll check the computer: let’s have a look what's going on online. It might help me to get rid of this headache!” he mumbled to himself.
Nino was not much of an internet surfer, and he had a reverential fear of new technology. He liked to look up websites on nature, animals, science fiction and recently, also because of the lack of contact with real people, he often visited websites where he could meet “virtual” people, without any particular goal in mind, just to have a chat, to listen to some music and to have fun. He often used the same website, Second Life: a platform for chatting and a virtual world, where thanks to an account and an avatar he could move around, chat and meet people, without having to reveal too much about himself or use his real name. It was a way to spend some time feeling less isolated, without having the responsibility of developing and maintaining relationships.
A few moments to login, the usual wait for the home screen, and there he was in his virtual world: a couple of friends were online, one American and one Dutch (Nino spoke English fluently, as his mother always spoke English with Sarah at home, and so he grew up in a truly bilingual environment). Nino loved Tirolean Folk music and Country music, and he moved straight to his favourite Country setting, thanks to the teletransport: he could always find somebody there to have a chat with and to listen to some tunes with.
IM “Hi!”
“Hi” replied Nino in IM, the usual routine of private greetings in IM (Instant Message). “Who are you?” Nino did not know this user, he was not on his friends list, and he had never seen him before.
“I… I am to learn you language…” said the avatar in a broken Italian.
“Ah, a foreigner” thought Nino, “well, we can speak English if you prefer, do you know English? Otherwise we could use the translator program.”
Total silence… gone... “Duh, the usual ‘newbie’…. I wish my headache could go as fast as he did! Omicron… what a strange name … Omicron QK… Yet this name reminds me something… Where have I heard that? I'll send a friendship request, and maybe I'll ask him that next time, but he is still on line… Why doesn’t he show up? He’s obviously new on Second Life, and hasn't realized how to behave in a virtual world… profile… nothing??? No data??... what a weird…”
“Hey Omicron! Are you there?”
“Indeed…” replied Omicron.
“Indeed??? … You don’t say ‘indeed’: you are not talking to the Queen! However, Hi Omicron, you say ‘Sure!”
“Oh, thanks, Lonnard (that was Nino’s name on Second Life), it is a while that I try to communicate with thee … sorry… with you.”
“Oh really? I didn’t see any IM message for me from unknown avatars.” Nino replied.
“In reality” said Omicron, “I have tried many ways and I managed to sneak into this informative… no, information system. I tried a direct contact, but I have not succeeded.”
Nino stared at the screen, trying to read some hidden message in the strange statements of that foreign avatar. Obviously he was not Italian, and also he was not remotely acquainted with Second Life. Interesting, and now his headache seemed to be receding. “What do you mean when you say ‘you tried various ways and you managed to sneak in’? Please explain.”
”Lonnard, Nino…”
Nino jumped out of his chair, and immediately unplugged the computer. “Nobody knows my real name on Second Life! How is that possible… a joke by somebody who knows my avatar….. MICHAEL!!!” Nino breathed a deep sigh of relief, as he thought he understood the joke. “Michael, that prankster, and IT genius, he's pretending he’s a noob on Second Life. I bet he’s killing himself laughing... I'll sort him out. Cookie, please stop barking! My headache is coming back… darn... come on, Cooksie!!” Cookie was wagging her tail and barking, but Nino had just taken her out, so he didn't pay much attention to her. He turned his computer on again, this time needing a lot of patience – as he had disconnected the computer without shutting down first, something you should never do – he waited till the system rebooted, and then immediately reconnected to Second Life: user, password, enter… there he was.
“Hi Lonnard, you’re back … thank goodness!” Omicron wrote.
“Yes, I am back, because you see, I am at home, where I should be, while he who should be at school, with one excuse or another never goes there!” wrote Nino sarcastically.
“I don’t understand” replied Omicron, “school? What is it?”
“Come on, Mickey, I know it’s you!” Nino wrote and picked up his phone … he dialled Michael’s number … “It’s ringing…”
“Hello” Michael whispered, “what is it?”
“It is that you wanted to have a laugh at my expense, but I didn't fall for it” Nino laughed.
“What laugh?” hissed Michael. “Look, I'm at school, I can’t talk on the phone, if they see me they confiscate it!”
“At school, since when are you at school? You are always at home!” retorted Nino in surprise.
“No, blast you, today I’m at school, we leave in an hour for the field trip to Rimini, to the Museum of Calculus and Information Technology. I can’t miss it!”
“Oh!” said Nino. He'd got it completely wrong this time. Clearly it couldn't have been Michael, well, maybe it could, as on Second Life messages could also be sent and received from a smart phone; however, in the classroom, on the verge of leaving for a field trip, it didn’t really sound likely.
In the meantime Omicron kept on writing: “Lonnard, reply Lonnard, come on! Why don’t you reply?”
Nino, worried and confused, went back to his computer. “Hi Omicron! Listen: how come you know my name? Who are you? Do we know each other in Real Life?”
“Lonnard, sure we know each other, but relax, I see you are tense and worried!”
“Do you see me? How can you see me? You just speak some broken Italian and can already read between the lines?” Nino wrote, tense and worried.
“No, I see you and that’s it.” Omicron replied.
Nino looked around, turning his head slowly, trying to understand whether there was some sort of webcam or similar device concealed somewhere in the room, then he cut a piece of black tape, and covered the webcam on the PC. “That'll fix your wagon” he thought, “I'll format my PC and delete all the malware that could have been installed.” Then, with an exaggerated movement, he scratched his head and wrote: “What am I doing, Omicron? If you really see me you should know that.”
“You are scratching your head in a funny way!” Omicron answered. “Now your dog Cookie will walk around the table, and then she will sit down beside you; on the count of three: one, two, three!”
A few seconds went by, and then Cookie got up, walked around the table, wagging and then sat down near Nino, gazing at him and still wagging her tail.

Chapter 2

Habaneria, Western part of the isle of Cuba – circa 45,000 B.C.

Omicron was walking along the beach, worrying about the problems that seemed to have befallen her. Her whole career, her successes, the treaties with the Vedians and with the Iberians, acknowledgement from Queen Alari and the approval of the Supreme Pack Leader: they were all dissolving before her, replaced by a feeling of emptiness and melancholia.
She had been summoned by Colonel Oller that afternoon for an official announcement, but that was just a formality: she'd already lost everything that she'd worked hard for over generations without even being able to defend or justify herself.
While she was ruminating on her hopeless situation, she received an urgent message “alert”: “Immediate assembly at Col. Yaid’s – level 1 – priority: now – end of message.”
“Drat!” she muttered, “it was supposed to be this afternoon. And anyway, what has Yaid to do with it? He's IT and security chief, and my problem didn't cause any security issues. What does the Engineer want from me? A technician, or rather … a boring technocrat, maybe he just wants a good laugh at my expense before it's official…. However… priority ‘alert – now’ … I'd better run…”
Omicron began to run along the beach, the sea air blew gently against her, ruffling her coat and the briny water of the foreshore bathed her paws. The sun, filtered by the protective dome, was pleasantly warm and the run on the beach gave Omicron an indescribable feeling of freedom and fulfilment.
“Let’s enjoy this run!” she thought, “it's so lovely to feel my paws on the wet sand and to run through the waves …. I'll soon be at Yaid’s post.”
Omicron reached Yaid’s post at the end of a long run on the beach and after crossing a grove and a clearing. The colonel’s house was on the top of a little promontory which, though it was not too high, it was possible to see most of Habaneria from there, and to see almost all the edges of the geophysical protective dome.
The colonel was impatient to see Omicron, and as soon as he saw her coming, he ran towards her.
“Sir!” replied the captain. The colonel continued: “I did not call you here to discuss your problems, although I would not mind knowing a few extra details, in order to help you…”
“Right!” thought Omicron to herself, “So you think you can help me? …. Silly old dog…”
“I called you because we have an urgent problem… I don't know quite where to start…”
“From the beginning” thought Omicron, “it's always better from the beginning.” “Sir, at your disposal!” barked Omicron, with due respect for his rank.
“Do you remember the news about that anomalous supernova?”
“Yes Sir, of course, the star Onaya, which exploded with lethal radiation… but that problem won't concern us for another 50,000 solar cycles.”
“That is true in part. However, a fringe of radiation seeped through a wormhole and has appeared a few days away from the earth!!”
“What?? With due respect, Sir, you are joking, aren't you? We're not ready to face even a fraction of that radiation. The dome wouldn't hold.”
“I asked the Queen to meet here with all the highest ranking officials, you included, as you are technically still an agent commander for defence.”
Omicron trembled at the thought that the Queen was going to be there too. She was terrified of even catching the Queen's eye. She had been unjustly accused of a serious breach and she knew she had caused great pain to the Queen, and even more to the Supreme Pack Leader.
“Thank you for arranging the meeting” replied Omicron, “but this is urgent, we must find an immediate solution for the safety of the inhabitants of the dome. What do the Control Centres say?”
“They deny there is a problem, even in the face of hard evidence, but I can tell you that I received radio signals that many starships are moving from the Centre of Naiesag. They are sending their leaders and officials away, leaving the less important citizens uninformed and doomed. Even from the Gaizah Control Centre we are receiving signals of continuous plasma uploads, and so we guess there must be huge starship traffic from there. We've received no signal at all from Aitlani, but something is going on, as they've activated a magnetic shield, in order to hide evidence of the radiation which could panic the population. The Queen is already aware of all that, but I asked her to come here and to speak to you and the other officers.”
In spite of the sense of panic that was slowly but relentlessly building up in Omicron, internally she sighed with relief, as the presence of all the higher ranking officials indicated that “her” problem would have not been on the agenda. It was a meagre consolation (much like “my tooth ache is gone but I'm dying of a heart attack”), however even a small consolation meant that she could breathe for a bit longer.
“The Queen!” announced Yaid. Queen Alari walked into the room followed by all her highest ranking officials. She was a truly majestic Havanese. She wore her black and white coat long and perfectly combed, on top of her head was a lock of hair tied with a golden ribbon, which allowed her to fix her fearless gaze upon anybody, her two pitch black eyes were formidable but affectionate. She was however the only one with direct access to the Supreme Pack Leader, from whom she received directives which she imparted in turn to the colonels, and from them to the captains. With a perfectly bound tail which curled to the lower part of her back, she had the bearing of a queen, and such she was.
Alari sat down with majestic dignity in front of her officials: the three colonels crouched in front of her, behind them the five captains did likewise, behind the captains the lieutenants. There was a long silence, and during that time, as was the custom among the Havanese, the supremacy and the rank of the Queen were acknowledged, and those present confirmed the awareness of their own rank and of the privilege of being there in the presence of Alari.
“My dear subjects” the Queen began, “I believe Colonel Yaid has already revealed, at least in part due to his limited knowledge, the grave problem which has unexpectedly come upon us.
I have questioned the Supreme Pack Leader, who has expressed indignation about what happened to one of you”(Omicron trembled visibly), however He informed me, in His supreme wisdom, that He was not going to change the order of the events. On the other hand, with a benevolent smile, He made me understand – as He knows the future – that we Havanese will be able to find a solution. For the time being, I want Colonel Yaid, our technical expert, to explain to you the only possible solution that we have worked out for now.”
Colonel Yaid recommenced speaking: “Thank you, Alari! Ladies and Gentlemen: we do not have many choices open to us. There is an event that we were going to confront in the course of many seasons, unfortunately, because of a wormhole, it has unexpectedly manifested itself very close to our planet. For those among you who are not yet fully aware of the situation let me explain: in our galaxy the star Onaya recently reached supernova stage. That is normal, you would say. The fact is that we do not have all the data on the cause of that explosion, but we do believe that it was not natural. We have reasons to believe that experiments by the Vedians caused that disaster. I can say this because the radiation released by that explosion is anomalous and extremely dangerous for organic molecular systems. Our protective dome will not be strong enough to resist the impact of the radiation: it will disintegrate and be completely dissolved, leaving no trace of its existence. What is worse, the radiation will cause irreparable damage to all organic molecular structures of the planet. In a few words we will be swept away, and he who survives will no longer be the same, but will suffer irreparable structural damage. Molecular structures will be degenerated and modified, if it's even possible to survive such impact. All life on the planet is at risk, if not of extinction, of a radical transformation.
The various Control Centres deny the existence of the problem, but from the recent increased activity of starships that we have observed we realize that they are fully aware of the situation.”
“Sir” asked Lieutenant Versen PTC, “what can we do, Colonel? Seeing the short time available, should we just resign ourselves to the inevitable?”
“No, Lieutenant” replied Yaid, “I was getting to the solution, which I would have already elaborated on if I had not been interrupted.” (Versen lowered his tail as a sign of submission). “In such a short time as we have had” sighed Yaid, “we have been able to work out this solution: we are saving on file all the genophysiological data of the inhabitants of Habaneria, one by one. As you know, this development allows us to memorize all necessary data for the reconstruction of the genes and of the molecular structure of the brain into a new body, when the body of an elderly one is perishing and is destined to the ‘estrangement’. Concentrated molecules are inserted at marrow level into the body of a puppy of the same family, in order to restore the genes of the estranged one, at the same time maintaining the characteristics of the new puppy.
My lieutenants are working frantically on the creation of genophysiological files for the whole population. The Queen has already undergone the duplication process, and her complex genophysiological structure requested particular work and a great deal of time.”
In the officials minds a whirlwind of conjecture and supposition were developing. In spite of the difficult situation, Yaid was smiling to himself, thinking about the confusion of the officers and of their conjecture, which manifested itself by rhythmical movements of their tails and by emotional yelps.
“People!” continued the old colonel, “I realize that you have a great deal to think about and you are formulating myriads of questions that you want to ask, but before you do that I want to address some of your doubts: how can we restore the genophysiological files if nobody is there to do that? If there are no puppies, because they will all be dead or if no genocompatible puppy will be born, to whom should we restore the files? Even if we manage to restore the files, how will we cope without the geophysical protective dome? We will be exposed to the savagery of possible survivors, maybe even armed and hungry.” An emotional yelp shook Yaid, at the thought of what he had just said.
“Here is my – sorry my Queen – our solution: for one of you the files will be backed up as for the others, but with some fundamental additions. The files will be inserted in an auto executable program. With a delay of at least 10,000 solar cycles, this program will monitor for the presence of a Havanese that will be compatible with one of you – the one in charge of the whole operation. As soon as a protocol of compatible genes is located, the genes of the puppy will start to communicate with the genes of the file, and an irreversible process of insertion in the puppy will be started. The restoration will be fully activated only when the puppy is two solar cycles old. In standard conditions he would have nothing else to do, but to live his new life. Under these circumstances he will be endowed with particularly powerful digital instruments. He will have the instruments to detect genocompatible puppies, initially of two of his colleagues, who will have to be restored first, and who will be part of his squad. We never needed this advanced technology in Habaneria, as the puppies of the families with estranged ones always were and are compatible, and could easily be restored by my working team. Rather, in this case the chosen agent will have control of various files. His primary assignment is the restoration of Queen Alari, and after that, with the help of the Queen herself, of the whole population of Habaneria. Keep in mind that in order to restore the Queen the impulse of at least two of you will be necessary. Once the Queen is restored, the protective dome can be reconstructed. Only the Queen is capable of that, and therefore you will need to manage without assistance at least until Alari comes back. The Queen has more of your files, and you will receive them as soon as she is restored.”
The two colonels and the five captains looked and sniffed at each other, trying to ascertain who could be charged with such a dangerous yet honourable assignment. The Queen, who up to that point had allowed Yaid to explain the plan, began to speak:
“I assume, by the way you are looking and sniffing at each other, you are trying to understand who will receive this difficult and challenging task. Unfortunately we can give this assignment to only three of you, as we don’t have enough time to generate this type of files for more Havanese. I am not among these three, because their task is to defend and to protect the Kingdom of Habaneria, by protecting the Queen and making her return possible, so that she can once more reign under the guidance and the approval of the Supreme Pack Leader. I would not be able to take the risk, the regal files are too important and they cannot be lost. The three dogs that I designated for this important task are:
Captain Omicron QK – Chief in charge of the Operation ‘Habaneria’ and endowed with auto executable files.
Lieutenant Versen PTC: supporting the Captain.
Lieutenant Massai EMM: supporting the Captain.
The three dogs looked at each other and started to yelp and to howl, both with joy and with the excitement of the assignment. For a long time all the dogs at the meeting, Queen included, barked and wagged their tails ecstatically, as a solution to the continued existence of the Habaneria community had been found.
“My Queen” asked Capt. Omicron, “why us? With due respect, there are Havanese present among us who have a much higher rank, so why us?”
“In this case it is not a question of rank, or of merit, Omicron! And you know that well.” Omicron crouched down and turned as a sign of submission.
“Get up, Captain!” ordered the Queen. “You three are those with more fighting experience, survival training and infiltration capabilities. Omicron! You will be the commander of this squad. The survival of the community of Habaneria will depend upon you. You have been trained for the Vedian camps, you sneaked into the Iberian militia and in among the Hunting Dogs, you know more survival tactics than all the others put together. It will not be easy, as we do not know when your package of files will receive the signal of compatible genophysiological presence; you could receive a Havanese body in any part of the earth, and you MUST survive! You will detect signals of the presence of your two lieutenants, or rather of genocompatible puppies, you will have to find them and… Yaid, please, can you carry on? These technical details sadden me greatly!” sighed the Queen.
“Certainly, my Queen!” replied Yaid promptly. “Omicron! Listen carefully: you will have an envious package of info-organic programs at your disposal, but you will be alone. We have no idea when your transposition will take place. As I said before, we tuned the detector to 10,000 solar cycles, to be sure that the blasted radiation will have no longer effect, but it might take 10 times 10,000 cycles, or more. Be careful, though, you will not feel the time difference, because as soon as the radiation has caused your corporal estrangement, you will immediately seem to find yourself in the new puppy, and not even a second will seem to have passed for you. Your old world will no longer exist and you will probably have to fight for your survival. You will definitely need to get some allies, who must not know the secrets of Habaneria. You must be vague when describing your assignment. Only when you have complete trust – and your military and combat training have taught you what complete trust means – you will confide with your allies, and only in order to gain the final objective, the reconstruction of Habaneria. Your brain will recognize the signals of your lieutenants, and above all the recognition signal of the Queen. You will not need to interpret the signals: your brain will do it automatically for you. The courses and the tests you took on HOIS (Habanerian Organic Information System) will help you to understand and to read the nature which will surround you. Even though it might be very different from that of Habaneria, it will still be organic.
An important point: it will need two of you simultaneously to restore the Queen: so it will not be possible to restore her with just one of you, unless one of you is eliminated. In that case, the two survivors will share the files of the deceased one. If a second dies, the whole package will be passed to the survivor, who will act alone in the restoration, as soon as he finds the compatible gene.”
“And…” whispered Omicron, “if we are all eliminated?”
“In that case” replied Yaid, “it will be the end of Habaneria and of any hope to restore our Kingdom, but it will not be easy to eliminate all of you. You are trained for survival and for the worst possible situations which may befall you.
“As soon as the files enter the auto execution procedure, you will receive a whole series of instructions and explanations, so it is useless to explain things that you do not need at the present time. Everything will be immediately accessible to your memory. Your first task will be to render your presence stable and to start the search for at least one (even better both) of your partners. You will know the rest later. One more thing: it will take long to find a puppy for you, as your executable files need a precise match of genes, but once you are active, your colleagues and then the Queen should appear promptly.”

Chapter 3

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