Journey Through the Mirror
A civilization can construct monuments to the gods and learn nothing.
A man can build a fire to keep himself warm and learn everything.
—THE CHRONICLES OF SATRAYA
MEXICO CITY, 10:20 A.M. LOCAL TIME, MARCH 20, 2070
A high-pitched scream jolted Logan awake. He sat up in the beach chair and looked around for his son and daughter. This wasn’t the first time he had heard his daughter’s distress call. He spotted a group of teenagers standing at the shoreline, pointing at something. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the blazing Mexican sun and saw his daughter, Jamie, frantically wading through the chest-high water toward the shore. Logan sprang up and jogged toward the ocean, looking for his son, Jordan, who was supposed to be keeping an eye on his younger sister. He was nowhere in sight. People walking on the beach paused and pointed at Jamie. Someone yelled, “Shark!”
As Logan’s jog turned into a sprint, spraying sand on other vacationers, he spotted the fin near Jamie. More people were yelling, “Shark! Shark!” Logan veered around a group of onlookers and grabbed a boat paddle, which was stuck in the sand next to an upside-down kayak.
He held it above his head as he ran full-force into the water toward his panicked daughter. Jamie let out another shriek as she splashed toward Logan and wrapped her arms around his waist when she reached him.
“Get behind me,” Logan said, as he eyed the fin moving slowly through the water. Logan felt Jamie squeeze him tightly as the shark moved closer. He placed both of his hands on the paddle and raised it above his head with both arms. A few more feet, and the shark would be close enough for Logan to drive it off with a single well-aimed blow. At least, that’s what he hoped. Suddenly, Logan’s mind blanked, and the sound of Jamie’s screaming became muffled. Logan’s view of the advancing shark blurred, and somehow another perspective was overlaid on top. Logan could see someone’s legs and feet walking along the floor of the ocean. The flash lasted but a moment before the overlay disappeared. He found himself now only a meter or so away from the shark. The fin stopped its advance. Logan bent his legs to better support himself as he prepared to strike.
The fin popped out of the water. It was affixed to the top of a young man’s head, held there by a strap that ran under his chin. He removed a scuba mask from his face and took the snorkel out of his mouth. “Hey, Dad,” he said. “What’s the paddle for? Are we going kayaking?”
Logan lowered the paddle. “Jordan, what are you doing?” he said. “You’re supposed to be watching your sister, not scaring her and the other people on the beach half to death!”
Jamie waded out from behind Logan. “Yeah!” she yelled, agreeing with her father. “Stop scaring me!” She skimmed the surface with her hand and splashed water into her brother’s face.
Jordan looked at his sister and his father, then noticed the crowd on the shore looking at them. Two lifeguards had left their stations and were heading toward them. “Sorry, Dad,” he said, realizing that what he had done was not very amusing. “Sorry, Jamie.”
Logan looked at his daughter, who seemed to have recovered from her brother’s prank. “Both of you have twenty more minutes in the water before we have to leave,” Logan said sternly. He held his hand
out to Jordan, who sheepishly waded over and handed him the goggles, snorkel, and artificial fin.
“Where did you get this thing, anyway?” Logan asked, shaking his head and heading back to shore without waiting for an answer. Logan handed one of the lifeguards the fin and apologized for the commotion. He stuck the paddle into the sand next to the kayak and made his way back to the lounge chair, where his girlfriend, Valerie, was waiting.
“What happened?” she asked. She was dressed in a red bikini top and a rainbow-colored cover-up, a long way from looking like the senior agent of the World Crime Federation that she was. She had just returned from the beach bar and was carrying two tropical drinks, complete with slices of pineapple and strawberries. “You don’t look very happy.”
“Jordan being Jordan,” Logan answered, as he straightened out the towel on his chair. “One day, his little sister’s going to roar back, and Jordan’s not going to like it.” He went quiet, his stare lingering on the ocean.
“What is it?” Valerie asked.
“You know that thing I’ve been telling you that’s been happening to me lately, where I’m suddenly looking at something different? Well, it happened again.”
“Really?” Valerie set the drinks down on the small wooden table between them.
“I was standing in the water, and all of a sudden, I caught a glimpse under the water. Like my perspective shifted for a second. I saw a set of legs walking on the ocean floor.”
“It sounds a bit like what happens to you when you stare into a candle flame. But you probably should get it checked out to be safe. It could also be related to all the stress you’ve been under for the last year.” Valerie stretched out in her chair and adjusted the brim of her sombrero. She held up her new PCD. “What do you think? It’s the latest in personal communication devices, with a few government enhancements.”
“Is it integrated with your thoughts?” Logan asked facetiously.
“Almost,” Valerie said. With a few taps on the screen, a book was projected in front of her. “I want to get through this chapter before we have to leave for the Institute.”
“That actually looks like a real book and not a projection,” Logan said incredulously, reaching over and passing his hand through the book.
“And check this out. It tracks with my eyes, so when I get to the end of the page, it automatically turns to the next.”
“What are you reading?” asked Logan.
“The Chronicles. I figure it’s about time I read the books that saved humanity forty years ago and then wreaked such havoc in our lives this past year. It doesn’t seem possible that books that have brought so much good to the world also provoked so much evil.”
“The books didn’t provoke evil,” Logan said. “People did. History is filled with instances of people committing terrible deeds in the name of a philosophy, religion, or political system that they have distorted to suit their own selfish purposes. There is a thin line between the justification of good versus the rationale of evil.”
Valerie gave Logan a questioning look, as the projected book in front of her disappeared. “In law enforcement, the line between good and evil is pretty clear.”
“In terms of the law, I agree,” Logan said. “But in terms of people . . .”
“I can’t believe that you, of all people, would believe that. After what Simon and Andrea did?”
“Keep reading,” Logan urged. “And let me know if there’s anything in the books you need me to explain.”
Valerie made the sound of a roaring lioness, putting a grin on Logan’s face. She looked back down at her PCD, causing the first volume of the Chronicles to reappear. The pages flipped to where she had left off.
Logan, his children, and Valerie had flown down from New Chicago yesterday at the invitation of Juan Montez of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, who had hired Logan to restore a
piece of pre-Columbian statuary. The Institute had put them up at the luxurious Orilla de Joyas, a newly constructed beach resort, located a few kilometers west of Mexico City. During the Great Disruption of 2027, a massive earthquake sank a large portion of Mexico’s west coast, from Guadalajara to Salina Cruz, into the Pacific Ocean. Only a ten-kilometer area surrounding Nevado de Toluca, the largest stratovolcano in central Mexico, remained above sea level. The eight-kilometer-wide gulf between the new island and the shore of Mexico City had become a getaway for vacationers from all over the North American Federation, which was made up of Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico. While hotels and resorts had been constructed up and down the Mexico City shoreline, development on the island was forbidden. During the reconstruction efforts that followed the Great Disruption, a period known as the Rising, the NAF’s flag was placed at Pico del Fraile, the highest point on the island. It could be seen from the shore of Mexico City and came to represent the perseverance of mankind. It was rumored that a fifth original copy of The Chronicles of Satraya was hidden somewhere on the peak, but that claim had yet to be proven. Daily excursions to the island afforded visitors the opportunity to search for it themselves, one of the area’s major tourist attractions.
While Logan’s children had spent the last two days frolicking in the ocean, Logan and Valerie had lounged on the beach. Logan badly needed a break. Only nine months ago, he had been a relatively poor artist, living a solitary life, burdened by increasing debts and decreasing confidence. His ex-wife had taken custody of the children, and he’d still been coping with the emotional fallout of his parents’ brutal murder three year earlier. To make ends meet, he’d auctioned off the original copy of The Chronicles of Satraya that he’d inherited from them. The subsequent revelation that his father was actually Camden Ford, one of the four people in the world who had found an original copy of The Chronicles of Satraya during the chaotic aftermath of the Great Disruption, and his mother, Cassandra, who had witnessed Camden’s discovery in the Ozark forest, had forced Logan into battle with a group that was
plotting to seize control of the world. With the help of Valerie and her father, Alain Perrot, who had been with Camden in the forest, Logan had succeeded in foiling them. He found some satisfaction in knowing that the group’s leader, Simon Hitchlords, and his accomplice, Andrea Montavon, were now both dead, but he still didn’t know the identities of the others who may have been working with them. There were still many unanswered questions.
“A picture, señor?” asked a male voice with a strong Mexican accent. Logan opened his eyes and saw a tall, well-built, dark-skinned man standing in front of him and Valerie, holding a camera. “A picture, for you and your beautiful wife?”
“No,” Logan said abruptly. “No pictures.” The man frowned before he walked away.
“He’s only trying to make a living,” Valerie said. “You should be nicer.”
“I know.” Logan sat up. “I can’t seem to clear my head.”
“You have too much going on.” Valerie shut down her PCD, and the projection of the book disappeared. “The children, the art studio, your parents’ commemoration, not to mention your responsibilities as a new member of the Council of Satraya—it can all wait. You’re on vacation this week. Remember, as a wise book you once read and I’m reading now said, ‘Every choice is yours. You and you alone bear the responsibility of your decisions. No matter how great or small they may be.’?” Valerie smiled, taking a sip of her drink.
“Listen to you,” Logan said, smiling in turn and picking up his own glass. “You sound like a Satrayian scholar.”
“I’m just sayin’ . . .” Valerie’s PCD rang. “It’s the office,” she said, as she rose from her chair and walked off to take the call.
“What about being on vacation?” Logan yelled after her. He saw that Jamie and Jordan had made their way out of the water and were now building an elaborate sand castle together. The photographer whom Logan had abruptly dismissed was standing near them and taking a picture of it. He also seemed to be giving the kids some building tips. Valerie was right, Logan thought. It is all choice.
He checked his PCD. It was almost 11:00 A.M. He rose and called the children, spinning his finger in the air to indicate that it was time to wrap things up. Logan had started to place his belongings in his well-worn backpack when Valerie returned with a stressed look on her face.
“Everything all right?” he asked.
“Potential new case,” Valerie said. “We’re being asked to look into the destruction of a well at a natural gas plant in the African Union, actually in the North African Commonwealth. Some are saying that the Republic of South Africa is involved. But I’m not going to deal with it; I’m choosing to let Sylvia and Chetan handle it until I get back.”
“Dad,” Jordan said excitedly, “let’s get a picture taken of all of us.” Logan saw that the man with the camera had returned with the children.
“Yeah, let’s get one,” Jamie said.
Logan nodded. He was not about to shoo the photographer away again.
“OK, come together,” the man said, and they did, bunching closely. “Smile for the world. No, big, big, big smiles.” The camera clicked a few times, and the man projected a 3-D image for everyone to see. “Beauti-ful,” he said.
“Thank you,” Logan said, holding out a few universal credits as a tip, while Valerie helped the children stuff their belongings into their bags.
“Thank you very much, sir,” the photographer said, as he accepted the money. “I like to make people happy. Show me your PCD, and I’ll transfer the photos.” Logan pulled out his PCD and placed it against the back of the man’s camera to allow the transfer. “There you go,” the man said, before giving a slight bow and walking away. “Your smiles are captured forever.”
“?’Bye,” Jamie said, waving to him. “Thanks for helping us with the castle.”
The man waved back.
“See, he just wanted to make people happy,” Valerie said.
Logan nodded. “Everyone ready?” he asked, swinging his backpack
over his shoulder. The kids kicked around in the sand, looking for anything they might have forgotten, before leading the way back to the hotel. “We’re off to the pyramid.”
The man with the camera walked along the shore, incoming waves sliding over his bare feet and ankles. He put his camera into a small gray shoulder bag and placed a call on his PCD. “Yes, they’re here,” he said, now speaking without the Mexican accent. He stopped and gazed at the island in the distance, where he could see the flag flying on the peak of Nevado de Toluca. “I will,” he said. “You should receive the photos shortly.” He ended the call and kept walking.