Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Fifty-Six



"Not on the day that the first of the biological terror attacks took place on this continent.  Nearly though, but he was saved by a call from his Spiritual Counselor on a device called a cone or fone or fell or something like that, that caused him to miss getting to his travel conveyance on time."

"Why do I get the feeling that plays a role in the story?"

"Because it does.  Solomon Harper had become a spiritual man prior to the Destruction but after that point he bacame very, very spiritual.  Some might have called him a zealot and in his later years there are some rumors that he became ... unstable ... but for the most part the family has remained close to the church ever since, even going so far as to send many family members and support the Guard with resources during religious battles that came during the Destruction and Chaos."

"That's not unusual as many did the same thing."

"And many did not.  I don't know if you have figured it out or not yet but the Vanburen family did not align with the Church until after the Chaos was over.  They've gotten into the habit of trying to ignore or cover up that part of their family history and it sometimes causes some to ... let us say handling things in history you'd rather ignore sometimes causes people to express their religion in less than constructive ways. During the Destruction and Chaos years the family is report to have tried to maintain a neutrality that was often destructive to everyone but their own interests.  They've been faithful since then to my knowledge and trying to make one generation culpable for what a preceding generation did bears no fruit so I do not hold what their ancestors did against the current generation."

"No, but it does make one leery of their intentions."

"Perhaps but I've no personal knowledge that they are anything other than what they portray themselves to be which is mostly just supercilious and overly proud of their accomplishments."

With a brief chuckle the Sheriff said, "Hah!  That's a description I'll have to remember 'cause if fits a few of them like a glove."

I nodded.  "I don't know much about the Linders of that era, even with Ceena's volumes to aid me I've just never felt the driving need to delve into it even if I had the time - which I don't - but the Harpers are another matter.  Solomon Harper was a geneticist.  While forbidden now in terms of intentionally trying to do this at the cellular level - you ... you know what I'm talking about?"

"Yes, I'm not a complete ignoramus even if science was not heavily included in my training."

"I ... I'm sorry.  I did not mean ... Nat always warned me that I could sound ..."

He laid his hand upon mine for a brief moment.  "Leeda, stop apologizing.  It is my shortcoming not yours.  I pretty much despised being confined indoors when I was a boy and played hard to find no matter how many times Father tried to lock me in the damn lesson room.  It wasn't until I entered the Guards that I actually saw how the use of the natural and mechanical sciences would even play a role in my life.  I've tried to catch up as I could but there are obviously still gaps in my knowledge ... but I do know the basics."

Smiling in gratitude that he wasn't ringing my head for being a know-it-all prig I said, "Well compared to what Solomon Harper and his colleagues knew all even our most learned scientists know are the basics.  We also did not have the equipment that he had access to that he kept operational as long as he could which was up until about the time of his death which is another family story.  But early on Solomon still had access to information most others did not ... such as the various biological weapons that were being used around the world, the weather charts to plot the drift of such particles in the air and research that was done early on about how the biologicals and other weapons combined to create unexpected mutations that eventually and continue to transform into our modern day plagues."

"When the Destruction began to approach its worst, Solomon gathered as many of those he considered 'his people' that would listen to him, they removed from the surface and lived underground in a complex of man-made caverns and storerooms.  They were underground for well over a year and several after that they only went to the surface rarely and only those that were finished with their seasons of begatting.  It was very controversial and there were too often battles with people from above ground that were jealous."

"This went on how long?" the Sheriff asked in surprise.

"Family history doesn't say specifically.  Most of the papers from that time have been lost except for the occasional scrap here and there.  But it lasted until after Solomon Harper’s third wife died - she was in her 40s and some kind of maternal complication arose after she'd given birth to her last child - and he'd married another woman who had been his brother's wife and had wanted another child as all of hers had died early in the war.  At his death he was a rarity of the time, a healthy man who lived into his 80s which was at least a decade or two after they returned above ground full time.  During this part of the Chaos small city-states began to form and Harper became one of them, and one of the more influential of the era because we had grain and other fruits and vegetables that were unaffected by the biologicals prevalent then.  Down in the caverns they continued to grow seeds so that if a season came that the plants were affected they could be razed to the ground and then replanted the next season.  I still have in my possession seeds which descend from those original crops."

The Sheriff nodded, "That's what Turner Waverly said.  He told me that the Great Council and the Church also keeps like treasures of those seeds."

"Yes.  The Great Council now allows some hybridization but only if the original seed inventory remains viable and above a certain level based on census numbers.  You know the penalty for anyone caught hybridizing without a license or when the heirloom seed inventory has fallen below legal limits."

"I saw a man hung for it.  He was out for profit pure and simple, not to mention the resulting crops were sterile. Those for whom it was strictly accidental, it does happen in nature occasionally, usually are subject to a legal case to determine their culpability."

I nodded.  "Food was serious business following the Chaos and remains so today.  But it isn't just the genetics and viability of the plants that were important, so was the viability of the humans of that era.  And that is where the Harpers differ from many other families though I'm told there are one or two such families in all of the regions - whether through intent or accident - and it appears from what we've learned that the issue is also on the minds of some of those which reside in the Borderlands."

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