Con Te Partiro (the alternate lyrics)
Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
Con Te Partiro (the alternate lyrics)
The ancients had an extraordinary, widespread custom of infringing upon their own freedoms by voluntarily subjecting their pursuit of happiness to the whims of another person. This strange, almost bewildering custom was called “marriage”. Two people, typically of opposite gender – but not exclusively so – would join forces, financially, socially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and sexually; all on a semi-permanent basis. Their connection was so strong that their ability to sever the marriage bond was severely constricted by law. Any alleged benefit to such an arrangement must assume as a prerequisite that the alternative of individuals living in self-directed freedom was simply not tenable.
What had been a matter of orthodoxy, however, was suddenly put to the severest of tests by virtue of the demands suddenly foisted upon these ancients, i.e., every able bodied male or female within the fleet. The equality of contributions of time and effort inevitably took its toll of the marriage concept and sent it into the oblivion that any modern observer would have to conclude was entirely appropriate. The fact that modern human beings are not so afflicted by such Neanderthal thinking today is very likely to be one of the benefits of what happened at the time of the Perl Discontinuity, the sojourn of the bulk of civilization being confined to ships at sea for an extended period of time, and the evolution of the ancients out of the bondage of the darkened ages in which they had lived for so long.
The following extended fragment, in impressively excellent condition, describes in brief detail the changes wrought by the events of the day upon such... quaint/acquaintance... customs. [pardon the pun]
Speaking of Marriage
Life in the fleet had encountered its own form of evolution. Marriage had fallen into almost near extinction. The husband and wife scenario of: mine, mine, exclusively mine... had been replaced! Most still tended toward monogamous relationships; there was just no more ownership; no more of the “my” spouse concept. Freedom aboard a ship with no ports of call was onerous enough, without the imposition of sharing only one bunk with only one other person.
This was probably also due to the fact that aboard ship, all had their own cabins, and thus able to mix and match to their heart's content. Children were inevitably under the eyes of everyone, with not even natural parents ready and eager to be on duty 24 hours a day (only those times that kids could get into trouble aboard ship) – particularly when routine duty watches for everyone on board – not just non-parents or male gender only -- kept such a narrow focus unmanageable. Marriage was slowly recognized as a social conspiracy going back many millennia, even it was never intended as such. It was nevertheless now considered a gross perversion of what it meant to be free.
The very idea of growing old with a single sexual partner had become almost a curiosity; it just no longer applied to the circumstances of survival and existence within a broader, very tightly knit and constrained community, where nothing could be taken for granted. Gone were those who had lived the vast majority of their lives within an hour's journey of their birthplace. Remaining were only those who had traveled far and wide... before and after – albeit, it's amazing how in the after part, one part of the ocean looked pretty much like any other. The survivors of Deluge/Flood, the Sequel – particularly those who had ridden out the events at sea rather than on land – had become adventurers, go-anywhere travelers, and people without a piece of ground that would rate as home or even a slight preference for a continuing residence. There were no homes, no family ties, no attachments to real estate. These people constituted a new semi-migrant class... one that would set the stage for at least the next fifty years.
There was also the sense of the Mystical Quest, the Journey, the Trek. This was perhaps the real death knell for the marriage concept. No one can be truly free to undertake the Mystical Quest when they continuously have to 'compromise' with their partner. As has been noted by one author:
From the modern perspective, one can only appreciate the wonders that extraordinary circumstances can wield in the evolution of human life and its continuing interactions within the species. Perhaps, we owe yet one more debt of gratitude to the environment over which D'PTah presided, and which allowed for the more demented orthodox and traditional practices to be seen without their clothing [pardon the pun], and thereafter in their true form in the light of day.
With this appreciation in mind, we come at last to the end of D'PTah''s tale, the final chapter of what we might hope to ever recover from the Myricon Discoveries. It is presented here without further comment.
May the Truth in All of its Glory Continue to be Pursued
Gilbert Deuruk Meshga
Mikhail Arthanius Duenki
The TLC Knightwolf was the flagship flotilla's floating dry dock. Normally I would never have had a reason to be aboard her, and in fact, the only time I could recall ever having done so ...prior to today at least... had been when I was in the tow of Pete and Thomas Athom. At the time they had been tinkering, checking, and pretending to approve the latest improvements in the retrofitting of one of the fleet's hospital ships. Thomas was the ultimate maritime engineer who I had to believe dreamed in three dimensional blueprints of every form of sailing vessel. For him, his job was readily apparent. This is what he did. Pete, on the other hand, as the "outgoing", "soon to be declared obsolete" Regency's Chief of Staff, was there more as the Regent's point man on special projects. I was there, ostensibly, because the effort might have been historically newsworthy... something to do with the innovative technological achievements being installed.
As it turned out... probably not -- at least for my version of the history. There were now other historians who had a better understanding of the technical background, and who were therefore better suited to record the event. They would not need me, as the Regent's historian, to record events more relevant to the work and planning of others. Nor would I be required to satisfy the goals of the republic's “varied approving entities”, who had wanted to document the work in some detail. I suspect my invitation to go aboard the Knightwolf had been more of the form of being politically correct, rather than any special talent of mine.
The approving entities were, of course, nothing more than the Admiralty Council and a vast array of sub councils, flotillas, task forces, and so forth. These were the different groups that were destined to largely supplant the Regency in terms of routine decision making and the day to day command of both the fleet and the land operations. With the evolution of lower ranking appointments, elections and the other means by which others could begin to be entrusted with a position of power and decision making, the Regency had slowly begun to release much of its power and authority. In the process, the term of “Regency” itself was becoming something of an anachronism. With the rest of us coming of age and taking our power; there would no longer be any need for a Regent... certainly not in the form we had heretobefore known it.
In the process, Daniel had taken to calling himself, DocPtah, a nickname he had adopted long before he ever imagined the Regency. It was also a distinctive, unique name that did not carry any baggage or definition... certainly not like the Regency, whose history had had more than a few ups and downs. The fact this nickname or moniker had somehow transformed itself among the populace into "D'PTah" was something of a mystery, but he seemed pleased with it... if not secretly amused. I for one will not be enlightening him on the possible reasons the name had evolved thusly. There are some secrets worth keeping.
The Regency's Chief of Staff, of course, was also being phased out, retired, put out to pasture... well... you get the idea. By any terminology, Pete's various official duties were now being systematically usurped by others taking their powers in what was increasingly a republican form of government. This transformation, everyone agreed, was a good thing. The only proviso... or suggestion of a hesitation on Pete's part... was his more than casual reminder of Benjamin Franklin's rejoinder... something to the effect that, "We have given you a republic; it now remains to be seen if you will be able to keep it."
Well... yes.. it might have been a bit of sour grapes on the part of Pete. At the same time, however, Pete had changed. He seemed a great deal more open to changes, was more relaxed, and had clearly left some of his old cynicism behind. There had been a gentle transformation, one probably due to Charlotte Joy's influence. In some unknown process, Pete had managed to become noticeably more serious about whatever duties were left to him, and yet more relaxed, as if he had a certain knowing that everything was going to work out just fine. He was even more statesman like, as if taking a longer view of history. It was a bewildering, if not somewhat amusing (at least for me) makeover. Others had noticed it as well.
But then what choices would a Pete have with such a clever woman as Joy? As to precisely what Pete was becoming at the hands of such a extremely intuitive woman was as yet an unanswered question. LIfe is, after all, more about process (as opposed to being a destination). And with a guide such as Joy...? There was likely no limits to the possibilities; undoubtedly something variable, possibly with a bit of skulduggery, and almost certainly something that I would never have predicted or even imagined. Hopefully it would be okay for me not to know even if it was destined to become one for the history books.
The good news was that Pete was still treated with considerable respect and deference. While Pete might have been somewhat oblivious to this -- or simply took it as a matter of course -- Joy was not. She was, in the manner of protecting her man, very conscious of the esteem in which Pete was held. I would have to guess that Joy may also have enjoyed the attention... especially when the two of them began to be referred to as the "relief pitchers" for the Regency. It was almost always applied to both Pete and Joy... as if a recognition of their joint power and worth. Kind of cute, I thought.
In the midst of all of this, the world had become one with a much greater percentage of ordinary days and fewer and fewer of those extraordinary and historically interesting ones. The Fleet was still very much operational -- thanks in large part to Admiral Sudra's iron hand -- but there was now a great deal of land activity as well. The latter of course was under General Perse Koenig's overall authority... but then the Marine Commandant was something of a changed man himself. Everything was no longer just discipline and esprit de corps. There was also a transforming enthusiasm -- as true enthusiasm is prone to do -- as well as the eagerness to prosecute of a whole new kind of campaign. It was said that his experience with the Warlords had had its own form of transformative effects. Nothing like looking the depths of horror in the face to recognize that there really should be another way.
Everywhere one looked ashore there was cleanup and reconstruction afoot. New groups of survivors were constantly being discovered and quickly assimilated -- with Koenig's often quoted "resistance is futile" as a... motivator. Fleet personnel, meanwhile, were going ashore on an ever increasing basis, doing most of the land work, but of course with a lot of help. Curiously, the vast majority of those who had gone through the Deluge, Flood, and Close Encounter while aboard any one of the many ships of the Fleet, still tended to call the sea their home and would inevitably spend their nights, or at the very least their combined rest days, aboard ship. The land dwellers tended to label such practices as paranoia. Of course, if the universe really is really out to get you... it shouldn't be labeled paranoia. Maybe... life.
Naturally, my job description as historian had been evolving as well. In recent months much of my time had been in the final editing and collating of The History; The Great Cleansing from the Time of the NinGish Arrival to the Landing of the Fleet. With so many of the early crises and challenges of the initial return to land now behind us and our leisure time evolving, less critical pursuits were being emphasized. Art, literature, even theater, were already making notable comebacks. In the process people with a bent toward history were beginning to compile their own versions of all that was transpiring. This allowed me to bring my work to some form of completion. Others could chronicle the coming events, many of which didn't involve any secrecy at all -- and thus there would be a desirable, if not preferred, diversity in the historical viewpoint. Obviously, no one had had the opportunities that I had had in witnessing first hand all the astounding events and actions of The Regency. So my history would always have its place. At the same time, however, I had begun sensing – and which I now have to believe was being screamed from the roof tops -- that my days of recording history (or in my case, herstory) were drawing to a close.
That was until Charlotte Joy tweaked my imagination. There were -- she suggested in her subtle fashion of assigning mystery to just about everything -- possibly one or two more events that might be worth being included in my chronicles. The first concerned something with just enough intrigue and fascination to appeal to my sense of mystery. Apparently, something was happening aboard the Knightwolf, something that I might want to investigate. It was in fact suggested that I might make a surprise visit and perhaps catch either Pete or Thomas, or both, in the act... whatever act that might be. Still having some authority, I knew I could commandeer a launch and make an unannounced visit to the Knightwolf. So I did.
My surprise visit... turned out to be something of a surprise for me as well. Pete, Thomas, or anyone I might of known, were apparently not aboard. There were in fact very few of the vessel's normal complement anywhere to be seen. The place, from my perspective, was almost deserted. One would have thought that today was just one more of the many Celebration Days, the kind when work was ignored and put in its proper perspective. But there were no celebrations happening; it was just another workday. Nor was it close to a holiday. It should have been a day ideal for accomplishing the routine work of the fleet. Accordingly, I had expected a fair amount of activity, even if without any sense of urgency or crisis
Only no one seemed to be actually working at all. There was no visible activity, no sounds of hammering or machinery, nothing to make anyone think there might have been any work going on. About the only sign of life was some distant music, the kind listened to in leisure or at a party. The music, in fact, was more likely to result in the crew getting up and dancing, instead of doing whatever else one does to decks.
Finding the place very nearly deserted was strange for another reason. With such a lack of activity, I had to wonder why Joy, my co-conspirator in such matters, would have suggested rather pointedly that there was something important afoot. I had responded to her idea with my usual enthusiasm... only to find precious little of anything to warrant it. Joy may have become my private investigative ears on the daily happenings in the fleet -- always attuned to the possibility of some portion of the history still in the making -- but now I had to wonder if she had some other agenda. I just hoped she wasn't growing concerned about her ability to continually provide me with yet more leads, and was therefore inventing possibilities just in order to keep my interest. Deserted decks are seldom hotbeds of conspiracy.
All of which were the reasons Joy's tip had me puzzled. I could not quite imagine why at this point the Knightwolf would hold any surprises for me... with one possible exception.
We had been overburdened with information on the new propulsion systems, whether in use on land or sea. Was there something of this happening? What else might there be, or what might be worthy of my time as the official, semi-intimate historian? Why would Joy feel the urgency for me to check it out? Charlotte Joy was not known for wild goose chases... but then again maybe she didn't know, but was instead simply exercising her rather extraordinary intuitive talents. She did say that she was certain that something was afoot, and that it was the dry dock that was somehow involved. She just didn't know what, but with my clout, I could investigate and... well... find out just how much of my clout had survived in recent months.
By the time I had had made my way to the TLC Knightwolf's bridge, I had encountered virtually no one. I had noticed in passing by an open hatchway, a half dozen sailors in the small mess hall, sipping coffee in the time honored fashion of any Navy, and listening to Classical Gas ... but I had decided not to interrupt them. On the bridge, I did find one lone sailor lounging in the Captain's chair, reading a novel. He scrambled to his feet when I walked into the pilot house, only to grin sheepishly when he recognized me. Apparently I was no longer a threat to his alleged lack of attention to duty or any of his extracurricular activities – and this despite my being the rumored paramour of the former Regent and current D'PTah... making me what? D'PTahina? Gee, I really hope not.
Keeping my tone as casual as possible, I asked, “What's happening? Anything?”
“Not much,” he replied. “Just the Beauty in for a paint job.” With his eyes, he gestured toward the dry dock, at which I had barely glanced upon my arrival aboard.
Looking down I could see which “Beauty” it was – what most had dubbed the Yacht of Yachts. It was – according to every male I had ever heard describe it – the coolest, sleekest, sexiest ship ever to sail the seas. Admittedly, even to me it was a thing of beauty, with the lines sweeping fore to aft emphasizing speed, maneuverability, more speed, innate luxury... and come to think of it, a whole lot more speed. I had seen it several times during sea trials and whenever it was used to ferry the Regent to other portions of the outlying fleet. But to date my view had always been from a tantalizing distance. Seeing it now from a distance, I was reminded of the claims of its being an incredible craft, with enough automation that would allow only one or two people to man it. On paper, it might have a crew of two dozen – but I strongly suspected many of them would be more personal servants than sailors. In that respect it had been rumored that the yacht was more often used to train butlers and cooks than deck hands and boatswain mates. The Beauty was that cool.
The general scuttlebutt also included the fact that it had more state of the art equipment than the collective complement of any ten ships in the fleet. Such statistics did not impress me that much, but many a sailor had been seen drooling whenever it cut through the waves. While to me, it was simply a beautiful sculpture; to others it was their ticket to the depths of spacial fantasies. Rather silly how so many enjoyed exercising their imagination in viewing something obviously mundane. Still... the yacht did live up to her nick name. Even I would admit to that... and even if there are different definitions of 'beauty'.
In the dry dock, however, the yacht was not nearly as impressive, slipped into an almost out of the way corner of the much larger dry dock. Being the only ship there, it was quite a bit less imposing, hardly worth going through the evolution of removing the water from the interior and leaving the yacht high and dry on well placed and shaped pedestals. On the basis of the differences in relative size, it could have been overlooked in the dry dock, even hidden in the shade. Most of the paraphernalia normally associated with dry dock work was nowhere in sight, and the only scaffolding at all was on the yacht's aft portion. Clearly it was ready to once again be afloat... and thus be allowed to engender all manner of envy and wishful thinking. (The male mind really is a marvelous thing to observe.)
But then... as I stood there, my arms resting on the bridge's high railing, something seemed to grab at my attention. Looking at this culmination of sea going vessels, I could not help but think that even with its claim to be cutting edge (in more ways than one), it was nevertheless rapidly becoming almost obsolete. Why did we need such a vessel? More and more of the ships of the fleet were being moored for longer and longer periods of time in specific ports. Why bother to spruce up and make perhaps the least functional craft in the fleet a solitary object of work? Why allow male fantasies to run rampant when there were other priorities of greater standing and urgency?
There had been, for example, an enormous effort expended in re-establishing our presence on land. In fact, our presence in the various ports of a massively reconfigured shoreline might have suggested that there was no longer any need for a massive fleet, much less a smaller, alter ego flagship.
Yes, I know: the lessons learned and the instincts regenerated about always having a great fleet in times of crises was now almost genetic, forcibly instilled into our DNA and destined to persist until such a time that the great sea going fleet could be replaced in quality and quantity with a space going one. We had survived in the condition we had, in large part because of D'PTah's foresight and Admiral Sudra's energy in ensuring that a fleet was at the ready to save enough of mankind that the later reclaiming of the planet would be remarkably successful. Every laurel sea power might have ever garnered had been thusly and properly earned. Q.E.D.
Still... there was something that nagged at my attention.
It was then I noticed a movement aft of the yacht; there was still work going on. It would be a bit of a nuisance to go all the way down there, but inasmuch as I had blatantly commandeered a launch to bring me from the real flagship to the TLC... and inasmuch as I was already aboard and had to look at least semi-official in my entertainments... And finally because of Joy's demonstrated quality of intuition... I finally decided that perhaps I should take the moment to check out even the slightest clue.
Dry docks are definitely construction zones. There are enough ways to bang knees, bump heads, trip, be blindsided, and run head long into moving gantries to cause apoplexy in any insurance actuary. I was not exactly dressed for the adventure, and I loath wearing a hard hat. But today at least things were in a relatively sorted out shape. In fact, there was every indication that once the remaining scaffolding was removed, the dry dock would be ready for flooding and the yacht could be on its way.
When I arrived at a vantage point to see the handiwork of the lone workman, he was just stepping back to admire his handiwork. He had been painting – christening? -- a new name on the stern – the traditional location for such vain pronouncements. The name may have also been on both sides of the bow, but frankly I hadn't noticed; it's difficult to see bow markings from up close and high above the main deck of the yacht. But the stern was easily viewable. Then I suddenly recognized Thomas, who turned and smiled at me, apparently my being the first person to appreciate his handiwork.
“What ya think?” he asked.
I kept wondering what he was doing working as a painter, but then forgot about it when I saw the name on the stern of the yacht. “Rhode?" I almost laughed. "Did you forget an 's'?”
“You're thinking of the island,” the man answered. “This is the gal the island was named after. She was a daughter of Poseidon and the wife of Helios.”
For a moment he looked at me, as if ready to continue the conversation in a whole new direction if I was so inclined, as if the name carried another meaning as well.
“A rose by any other name...” Tom began, and then smiled.
I was not getting it. So I tried another tact, “Any immediate plans for it?”
For a moment he looked surprised. As if it were obvious, he shrugged and answered, perhaps too quickly, “It's the King's Barge. It's up to the King.” When I turned to look at him, he seemed to regret his quickness. “Perhaps you'd like to go aboard and... look around,” he offered.
“No,” I said, with all the vanity of my office. “I've seen it before.”
“Some really interesting recent innovations,” Thomas Athom added, still trying to tempt me.
I really could have cared less... but something was intriguing me. And I saw no need to be rude to Tom; he was certainly being polite enough to me. After a slight pause, I said okay, and he suddenly became the gentle escort and tour guide. Together, in the space of less than hour, we pretty much saw it all. He had been absolutely right: I had definitely seen more than I had expected.
As I headed back to the launch with the energy and assertiveness of someone on a very important mission, I knew that the launch sailors would be far less chatty on the return trip. My mind was in fact clearly preoccupied, which made them positively eager to keep their distance. I wasn't rude, but perhaps a bit curt – even as I mentally thanked Joy for her tip and calculated my next conversation. The upcoming festivities were going to be with Monsieur D'PTah. As I rehearsed veiled accusations in my mind, my right hand fingered the lucky pendant Daniel had given me for the Great Ball, the one now commonly included in the culture as being the first award for a Knight (male or female) of the Golden Horseshoe. The memory, however, was not going to be used against me. It was my badge of honor, one that was mine by rights, and one that I would use to create my very own reality.
By the time we had returned to the flagship, I really had a head of steam up. I don't know if the launch crew somehow signaled to the others on the flagship, but virtually everyone along the way was quickly and quietly clearing a path for me. That was very wise of them to take advantage of just a little forewarning... the kind that said, 'Run and hide; the babe's on a rampage!"
D'PTah was alone in his cabin when I arrived, listening to an orchestral version of Con Te Partiro. When I entered, he smiled. For just a moment, his glance included my golden horseshoe pendant, which prompted him to say, as if it meant little or nothing (when of course it meant everything), "Ah, Madame Margarite is wearing her crown jewels. How appropriate."
At first, I didn't know just how to take his comment, and thus I stayed silent, waiting for the next move. I would let my seething emotions speak for me. But he had already turned back to listen, with the music now in the latter portion, the place where anyone with blood still pumping in their veins will be moved – today, perhaps, the blood coursing even more vigorously. As the music finished, he turned back to me. “That gorgeous piece of music was written by Francesco Sartori. Fabulous work.”
“Very nice,” I said, trying to will him to gauge my mood before I confronted him.
“It's actually a love song, with lyrics by Lucio Quarantotto. Of course, there was the second alternative lyrics.”
“What second version,” I asked? I wasn't going to be distracted, but something told me to allow him time to have his say. Maybe he had already started his journey in the coming conversation.
“Not exactly a second version,” he said, reflecting on his words for a moment. “More like a second title, but one which is used in the body of the song. Someone named Peterson apparently helped on it when it was sung by two of the greatest singers of the world at a rather unique venue to honor a national hero.”
Without a chance for me to reply, he quickly made a selection on his computer and the room was again filled with the music, this time with lyrics . The words, however, were in Italian and had me at a loss... until suddenly... the female voice [Sarah Brightman] sang four of the words in English. I wasn't sure I had heard them right, until the male voice [Andrea Bocelli] -- a voice calculated to melt the hearts of most women -- had sang the four English words as well. They were, quite simply: “Time to Say Goodbye.”
“I'm afraid I don't understand Italian,” was all that I was able to say.
“Neither do I, but the translation of a portion of the lyrics seems particularly appropriate, if you don't mind a bit of paraphrasing... or even creative interpretation.” Then with a gentle smile, watching my every move, he sang (almost on key), “I've sailed with you upon ships crossing the seas, but these same seas exist no more. It's time to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” I asked? I had heard it right; I didn't need to ask, nor did I need to belabor the obvious. But I was stalling for time. I didn't like the sound of it – even if I had liked the music. It was the implication. I was about to ask, 'Is this some kind of weird 'Dear Margie'?' letter, when he continued onto yet another track.
“Did you get to see the Rhode,” he asked, a mischievous smile lighting up his face.
'Finally! We're getting to the point,' I thought. “Yes, as a matter of fact. Very nice. Lots of interesting innovations. There were a couple in particular...”
He was still smiling when he interrupted, “Ever read any historical fiction, notably that of ancient Greece?"
"There is, for example, Mary Renault, where quite possibly the most famous of her several novels was entitled, The King Must Die. Pete put me on to it. You know how he's always suggesting books to read."
"Really?" I was still lost, but lost in a territory I suspected that was not going to be to my liking.
"Mary Renault's understanding of the history of ancient Greece was that the Greeks gave their Kings extraordinary powers. But if things began to go badly for the kingdom and the people in general, then clearly the King had fallen out of favor with the gods, and must therefore go. In other words, the king must die. In some Greek cities it was assumed on an annual basis that the king would be challenged and depending upon the favor of the gods, he would either be reinstated or deposed by a new king."
"But why now? We're not finished yet! There's so much more to be done!"
"No doubt... but in order to ensure that a much wider spectrum of people and groups will be invested in the outcomes, more and more has to be done by them... and without my over-shadowing presence." For a moment he looked at me intently. "Do you see what I'm trying to say? If I leave now before it's all done, then I won't be around to screw things up... any more than I've already done so at least. I also won't be here stir up more political attacks and controversies." For just a moment, he hesitated. "On the other hand, if I leave with a bit of fanfare... and then disappear mysteriously... then I become legendary, and that legend will have a strong hand in ensuring that our visions, our goals, everything we've tried for... are somehow manifested. It's much harder to attack a symbol than an all too human individual."
"It just sounds so over the top..." For a moment my voice faltered.
"I thought that at first, but Pete and Joy really convinced me that by bowing out early... even if by an apparent accident... that it would have an electrifying effect on everyone. Charlotte Joy can be very convincing. Of course, the plan has to be kept absolutely secret, or otherwise, the legend will die as nothing more than an attempt at a callous and manipulative PR stunt."
"So who knows about this?"
"Now... with you... just five. The four of us and Sudra."
"But for the king to... to die?"
"It's not a bad system, when you think of it. With extraordinary power and privileges come... extraordinary responsibilities." His smile became a wry grin. "Of course, sometimes it's not a matter of the gods creating problems for the kingdom so much as making it clear that it's time for new leadership. We have a certain vested interest in the second concept. Although, perhaps not so much death, as exile."
My mind was racing. I had to somehow interrupt the logical process he was following. "Exile? How can one be exiled from the... kingdom... when it encompasses the entire earth?"
"Good question," he answered still smiling. "And obviously, one best left to the gods." Then he seemed to relent somewhat. "But be assured, there's a plan for that as well. This is not some form of suicide."
I was about to voice some strong objections... when he held up his hand.
"In all of the years we've struggled with our vision of a new world, we've had to make some very tough choices. Some were laced with a bit of arrogance, vanity, and short-sightedness. Even if they were always... or almost always... well intentioned.”
“We gave it out best,” I answered evenly.
“And in the process did things for which... we must now be held accountable.”
“Are you worried about how history will treat you? I can assure you that what I've written...”
“Yes, I've read it.” When my surprise, tinged with the possibility of outrage, abruptly surfaced, he quickly added, “Sorry about that. It's one of those actions for which I will undoubtedly be held accountable, even if by you alone. It was necessary... and I can assure you that there will be no editing of any kind.”
“I?" Suddenly the shift in personal pronoun was too obvious to ignore.
“I'm fully aware,” the solitary man before me continued, “that my memory may be crucified in any history of the period. I am, however, encouraged that at least one version of what is more likely to be the 'whole truth' will perhaps survive my passing. With any luck... believing wholeheartedly in the dictum that 'manuscripts don't burn'... I will at least have a good defense in the court of history. And if such a defense is preserved on multiple copies of bronze and stainless steel sheets...”
I almost laughed. “You mean my words are not going to be carved in stone?”
Suddenly, every hint of tension in the room collapsed with his throwing his head back and roaring with laughter. It was sufficiently contagious, that I laughed as well. Then as he wiped his eyes, he added, “Be sure and include this portion.”
“Already recorded and logged,” I answered.
“Spoken like the true and perfect scribe.”
“How about the true and perfect lover?”
I knew his answer from the loving look he gave me, but I've always had a yen for voicing one's feelings of rapture, whenever and wherever they occur. (His answer will of course be left to the reader's imagination. As a hint, keep in mind that the man is not entirely ignorant, nor suicidal when it came to women. It was not like he was going to say something really, really stupid. And he didn't.)
“So,” I asked, “When do we leave?”
“We?” He sounded so innocent! I briefly considered wringing his neck.
“If you're thinking about going off into your exile alone, you're demented. Not to mention: dead wrong with a strong emphasis on the 'dead' part!”
“Are you sure? There's not a lot of excitement likely for the four of us.”
"Four?" 'Shit! So much for romantic endings!'
"Pete could not be dissuaded, and his lady, Joy, has an extraordinarily strong will."
"Then it'll be a foursome," I added.
"Exactly... the four of us going off on a much needed vacation. And then later, when disaster strikes..."
My frown was waning, but I still managed, "You've planned for me to go long with your plans from the outset, haven't you?"
"Only for the possible contingency. I simply hoped for a positive reaction on your part."
"You're such a liar."
"And for which I shall shortly be held accountable, no doubt."
The departure four days later was just before noon. D'PTah had been greeted by the yacht's captain, who had everyone aboard at parade dress for what was to be the temporary... yet formal... change of command. So much for secrets and discretion! It was also then that we noticed that there were a lot of ships in the area... all apparently waiting for something. At the same time, media feeds were being made and disseminated to the fleet. Everyone was in a state of eager anticipation – even the land based contingents and survivors. Come to think of it, perhaps even more so for those who had been exercising the day-to-day routine of governing under the watchful eye of a Regent and his closest friends, all of whom were about to spend a few days sailing in a long overdue vacation. At long last they were about to be left to their own devices... even if only for a week. Or maybe two.
Yes, you got it. The secret plans were not even vaguely secret. At least some of the plans. Everyone knew and, apparently, everyone was okay with the four of us sailing away for some serious R and R. In the interim, all of the many and varied authorities were about to be left to their own devices. (Or so they thought, as D'PTah had left more than one political land mine for them to discover at their peril, and hopefully from which to learn.)
There was an incredible number of flowers generated for what should have been pretty much a non-event. As such the flowers were an overindulgence that would might under other circumstances have caused D'PTah to frown and dictate a strong memo concerning the waste... even if perhaps this time he might have simply enjoyed it. There was also the bare possibility that perhaps it was deserved inasmuch as he was, after all, the man who launched more than a thousand ships.
There were also the greatest portion of the fleet close aboard in the same limited area ever brought together in history. Literally thousands of ships, all awaiting for the departure of a single yacht. The Regent taking a real vacation was seen as an excuse for a Celebration Day to end all Celebration Days. I must admit that I could not argue with anything in excess in this case. In my very soul, I knew that this was the grand finale, the final curtain call, and the tear-jerking final leap into the abyss to end all such endings.
Once D'PTah had reached the helm on the Rhode, had given one final salute to everyone via the massive television coverage, and then turned to the controls and begun his exit, the loudspeakers throughout every ship in the fleet and in every television anywhere in the world began playing the music from Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye). Music has powers that technology can only stand in awe before, and this was no exception. With the music wrecking havoc with emotions throughout the world, the Rhode had come underway with a flair of momentous proportions. It was one heck of a send off for four people who were taking a vacation, but perhaps... there was yet another hidden plan... just in case.
Amidst all of this was the expenditure of even more of the less-than-frugal waste, as fireworks and flares attempted to light up the overcast sky. Even the clouds themselves began churning, boiling, and playing with lightening fire – an event curiously reminiscent of a earlier time around the island of Paros.
As the HRH [sic] Rhode reached the apparent limits of the fleet – whose outlying ships had strict orders not to engage or follow the action even slightly – the Rhode's stern went down as the propellers dug deep into the war to gain all possible power and speed. The bow came up and the Rhode was seen in all of its glory. Lots of male drooling at that sight, no doubt.
Aboard Admiral Sudra's flagship, an unknown vessel had been sighted... an unauthorized ship in a decidedly unauthorized area. The intruder was located along the Rhode's obvious track.
The officer reporting the facts to Fleet Admiral Sudra did so with the dramatic flair of someone thoroughly convinced of near-intimate, world-shaking conflagration that only the junior officer could prevent. The only problem was that his Admiral seemed unnaturally calm.
“The unidentified ship is not showing up on radar. It was spotted by an aircraft stationed at the outer fringe of our surveillance. The Rhode is right on track to be intercepted by the intruder.”
“And you're certain,” Sudra replied, his voice low and casual, “The pilot in the surveillance aircraft is not having hallucinations?”
The junior officer was momentarily caught off guard. Hallucinations? Was the Admiral kidding? “Well... no, I'm not certain. But shouldn't we do something... just in case it's real? Sir? The pilot seemed to think it might be the pirate, Villa.”
“Ah,” Sudra exclaimed, as if all the pieces of the puzzle had suddenly fallen into place. “That would explain why radar did not pick up anything, wouldn't it? The Dreaded, if not fictional, Pirate Villa is reputed to have the most sophisticated radar and electronic counter measures in the fleet – far ahead of most anything we have. Hell, according to rumors you'd be lucky to see Villa's pirate ship when it's alongside the dock.”
“Well... the pilot did say he was having difficulty maintaining visual contact. Should I order him to attempt a low level approach, Sir?”
Sudra meditated on the idea for about two seconds. As he did so, he began fingering a long ago expended bullet in his hand... evidence of a staged deed from the past. “No. I think not. It's not like we'd be able to do anything. There's not enough time for the fleet to react. And the aircraft has no weaponry, right? I suppose we could warn D'PTah... but then again, I believe his receiver is off – can't be over-ridden.”
“But Sir, we have to do something! Sir?”
“Tell the pilot to monitor the activities. But not to get too close. From a distance...” Fleet Admiral Sudra, the senior officer afloat... anywhere... then leaned back in his chair, a strange smile on his face.
When he noticed the junior officer eying the Admiral's finger manipulations of the bullet, the Admiral confided, “It's a bullet... the end result of being fired and... caught. A most interesting history, this bullet. In fact, one of the more fascinating trivia of our time. A bit of magic...” at which the Admiral hesitated, before adding, “...the secrets of which I'm afraid can be shared only with those with the most fundamental need to know.” The Cheshire grin on the Fleet Admiral Arthur Zia Sudra's face, the junior officer was absolutely certain he had never before encountered.
Aboard the Rhode, the first moments of the cruise had been uneventful, the weather having been outdistanced, and the seas relatively calm. Not quite the calm before a storm, but close.
That was when another ship was encountered, one in blatant disregard of the standing orders to allow the Rhode unimpeded progress... unimpeded... without so much as a sighting. Pete, Joy and I had come up to the interior bridge by then, and we had begun to share some wine and cheese – the Rhode's automatic navigation and course selection system already being in full command of the operation. It had been time for a small party, until the other ship came into view.
Joy had been the first to note the apparent anomaly on the near horizon – Pete was positively startled. I could see he was more than a little miffed at the slap in the face to what I later suspected was his intricate planning. He had already grabbed binoculars and begun making plans to ensure that the miscreant would be brought to a swift and hopefully painful justice.
“Shit,” was his immediate, if not succinct report. It was followed with a supplement, to wit, “It's a friggin' pirate ship! It's got to be Villa! No body else has a ship like that! That's why the automatic radar didn't pick it up until they were virtually on top of us.”
All of us turned to the Regent, aka D'PTah... and/or just Daniel. For a moment he simply looked at us, his expression one we'd learn to see whenever he was playing diplomatic poker.
That's when the other ship begun firing its guns.
Richard the Third, as his pirate crew loved to call him, had never been one to acknowledge any authority other than his own. Having made his way though the years on a ship which had never been subject to accountability of any kind, he had proven his worth as both a leader and a survivor. Today, he was once again demonstrating his command of the unexpected.
With the complicity and full cooperation of Fleet Admiral Sudra, Villa, aka Richard III, was graciously and magnanimously bidding his own farewell to the Regent.
Besides seeing a 27-gun salute, I don't think I would have ever imagined seeing a pirate flag with its skull and cross bones at half mast, the pirate crew on the main deck at parade dress and rendering a snappy, if some what out of practice salute, and several bottles of champagne being uncorked on the pirate bridge in a Mardi Gras fashion.
But this was the day it happened.
 Shaul Volkov, private communication, 2008.
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