by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 22

The Institute

The following morning after breakfast the eight guests were invited on a tour of the house, a twelve-sided polygon on stumps so snakes and other wildlife could pass beneath. The low-pitched tiled roof extended beyond the walls to cover a three metre wide verandah that encircled the house. Inside, the large open space was cleverly furnished and divided to create the usual areas while granting privacy to each. Small windows kept the interior pleasantly dim and cool and the generous wall spaces were covered in technically excellent paintings, mostly representational, of humans and animals in nature.

They sat in the lounge to discuss their shared future.

'Leon, our accountant, is taking Claudius, his grandfather, home to their ancestral lands. Leon's partner, who's been taking care of the grounds at the institute will be leaving with him, so that makes two jobs; accounting for Robert, who's an accomplished financier, and groundsman and kitchen gardener for Zadig who is the world's best conservationist.'

'It sounds a bit beneath my skills, but I'll talk with Leon and Claudius and let you know,' Robert laughed.

'Ditto for me, I think,' said Zadig with a slight frown.

'You don't look pleased.'

'Oh, I'm pleased, it's just that Mort and I are inseparable, so it all depends on where this research station is, where I'll be living and all that.'

'The same goes for me, of course,' Robert added.

'Seb's jumping the gun' Jarek interrupted. 'We should have made it clear we realise you're all attached, the institute's only a ten minute drive or twenty-minute jog from here, so we hope you'll all live here on the property. It shouldn't take Fidel long to construct four new dwellings.'

Fidel's laugh was mildly hysterical. 'Jarek! I've never built a house. I wouldn't know where to begin.'

'Don't underestimate yourself. I'll give you a hand, and so will the others when they have time. I wasn't thinking of a regular house, more along the lines of where you're sleeping now, only better since you'll be designing them. Money's no object; we'll get an excavator and everything else you need, some tradesmen for the difficult bits—if there are any. We don't need permits as no one knows you're here, and when finished they'll be as invisible as the guest house.'

Fidel couldn't stop giggling. 'Jarek, you're completely crazy. When can we start?'

'Tomorrow.' He looked around at eight pensive faces. 'You wouldn't be tenants, you'll have privacy and papers to prove your legal right to live here and all that. And you can put your caves wherever you like… at the far end of the property if you want.'

'How far is that?'

'About fifteen kilometres.'

'You guys own all that, and still want us to live nearby?'

'Yes. After talking it over we thought it'd be safer for you to live here on the property where you can live in peace, go walk-about, do as you like without meeting the enemy. Are we pushing you?'

'No. No. It's just…'

'We're all a bit overwhelmed, Jarek and Sebastian,' Hylas said softly. 'We're pretty sure we know you because of your house and gardens and the way you think about things, and we reckon we've fallen into paradise. But you only know what we've told you about ourselves. It could be all lies. I think we all feel worried that when you get to know us you might find we're not as wonderful as you hope.'

Sebastian raised an eyebrow. 'That was a very clever speech, Hylas. How can we not insist you stay after such modesty? Ok, I admit we're desperate and had decided to grab the first derelicts who came along who we could trick into staying here so we could tie them up, rape them and…' his face dissolved into laughter. 'Look. There will be no contracts, nothing to sign, so you can go away whenever you like. If we make a mistake about you, surely that's our problem?'

'Not really, because I think what you are doing is too important to stuff up.'

'That does it!' Sebastian looked furious. 'As your host, I am insisting you accept my hospitality for as long as you want, and help us in any way you feel like, and that you enjoy yourselves and feel happy and contented and sometimes spend time with Jarek and me and…' His grin was infectious and with huge relief the eight homeless men relaxed and began to really believe in the possibility of remaining, and being useful.

'What can we say? Thank you doesn't seem adequate. It all seems too good to be true; and as things that seem too good to be true usually are, we didn't want to get our hopes up. But now…' Arnold grinned, shrugged, and relaxed back in his chair with a contented sigh.

Sebastian and Jarek smiled.

'Now all that nonsense is settled,' Jarek said with exaggerated relief, 'we come to Bart with his experience as counsellor. There are numerous stresses on our dwindling number of scientists and technicians. Those who've lost their loved ones are staying, but are emotionally fragile, and others are wondering whether to stay. I think you'd be the right man to chat with them and calm the petty disputes and jealousies that are inevitable among scientists even at the best of times.'

Bart nodded.

'Mort, I hoped you'd think of ways to entertain them or get them to entertain themselves… distract them in some way, involve them and teach them tricks. You'd know better than me how to make a boring man contented with his lot.'

'Flatterer. I'll have a go.'

'Hercules,' Sebastian said carefully, 'from what the others have said about you and Oasis, you're the ideal organiser, because under your direction no one realises they've been organised, so you're in charge of the smooth running of everything.'

'What's everything?'

'All except one of the scientists, and all the technicians live there, sleep there, eat there, are entertained there, work there. Until now my father's been the Director, but he's getting on and wants to spend his time with Fee, his wife. Unlike him, I'm a disorganised person so I hope you'll take over his work. He'll give you all the information you'll need and won't be looking over your shoulder.'

'I'll have a go.'

'Arnold. As a policeman you'd have known about crisis management and first aid and all that sort of thing. We had a trained nurse, but his boyfriend was mauled by dogs as a punishment for not attending mass.'

'Tell me you're joking.'

'Where have you been living? How long since you guys took a good look at what's happening?'

'It's a fair while. We never watched TV or read newspapers because they're all lies and government propaganda.'

'Of course they are—they always have been even in the old days, but at least they inform you about the state of society.'

'Did the poor guy survive?'

'Barely, and that's why our excellent nurse is leaving—staying home to take care of him. Here, it's just cuts and headaches, stress and imagination mostly. But you'd look great in a white coat and stethoscope. And in your free time I'm sure Zadig would appreciate a hand.'

'I'll start collecting leeches immediately, Sebastian.'

'Good man. And now for handsome young Hylas. You've the worst job of all,' Jarek said seriously, 'but you're the best qualified. As you know, our work is secret. If Christian Kingdom got the slightest whiff we were working on creating a new man to succeed Homo sapiens they'd blow the place up, literally. We'd be tortured and incinerated at the drop of a match. Security is paramount. We'd like you to become the essential lab assistant cum technician who helps everyone, gets them to like and trust you and tell you things, so if someone is beginning to have doubts, or seems a bit careless, or makes unusual telephone calls, or excites your suspicion in the slightest way, you'll let me know. The whole place is well covered with security cameras and other devices, but there's no substitute for a real person.'

'It sounds the exact opposite of what I thought I was, but I'll do my best.'

'I know you will.'

From the main road no one would guess the Research Institute was there. There were no signs or impressive gates, and clever planting of trees and shrubs concealed the high, wire-mesh fence that encircled it, giving those driving past the impression they were seeing the back fences of private properties with entrances on another road. The Institute occupied the entire block so they had no curious neighbours backing onto their land. The only access was a lane that seemed to lead to a private house. However, after fifty metres the view opened to reveal an arboretum, tennis court, swimming pool, vegetable gardens, and almost hidden among a stand of tall eucalypts, the two-storied main building with its single-storied annex, a gymnasium, and a dozen cottages among the trees.

Just inside the main doors was an office where Leon was working on a computer. He welcomed them effusively, professed himself delighted to have a successor, and arranged a time to show Robert the ropes. Beyond that was an extensive library, a small kitchen, dining room, lounge and games room for relaxation during working hours when researchers' brains bogged down.

The top floor was occupied by five futuristically well-equipped laboratories, each with computer rooms and other high tech facilities attached. In each lab a researcher and technician were occupied. Apart from the slight hum of electrical apparatus and air conditioning the atmosphere was relaxed and busily calm. All windows were closed and the slight smell of antiseptic was pleasant. The workers looked up, nodded vaguely when introduced, then returned to whatever they'd been doing.

'They're certainly keen,' Arnold remarked. 'Not interested in us.'

'Not interested in anything apart from their work. You've no idea how dull geniuses are, that's why they're so successful, they do and think about nothing else.'

Attached to the main building by a covered way was a well-equipped gymnasium.

Having admired the space and equipment, they exited through a door in the rear wall and walked five metres along a gravel path between shrubs to an old shed labelled Equipment Room.

'From here on it's top secret. Only to be entered by card-carrying true believers who have checked they are unobserved. The rumour is that we're developing a secret weapon for the government.'

Inside, one wall was entirely covered by a large metal tool cupboard, the central double doors securely padlocked. Sebastian placed his palm on the top left corner of the cupboard and the padlocked doors slid sideways, then closed silently behind them as they descended wide steps to a large basement laboratory containing a vast array of electronic gadgetry and other esoteric machines as well as all the usual equipment. The greetings from the three men hunched over a printout were similar to upstairs. The technicians were more effusive, shaking hands and asking questions of their new colleagues.

Somewhat in awe of the security, size and complexity of the place, the visitors tiptoed around, then passed through another door into a long tunnel that ended in a flight of stairs and another metal security door. After checking the monitors of several concealed security cameras to ensure no one was outside, Jarek's handprint opened the door and they stepped out into the dappled shade of trees behind one of the cottages.

'That's an impressive bolt hole.'

'We hope we'll never need it, but only fools think they'll not one day be the target of a government determined to keep all citizens in a state of perpetual fear and terror. It's only known and used by the scientists and technicians who work downstairs and live in these cottages, because it's their work that's dangerously innovative.'

The cottages were larger than at first appeared, having a well-appointed basement, and attic bedrooms as well as the usual rooms on the ground floor. After inspecting one of the cottages inhabited by technicians, they wandered past the tennis courts to the pool. It was hot so they stripped and swam, then lay in the shade to discuss what they'd seen. Ten minutes later a tough, lean, neatly bearded black man arrived. Sebastian introduced him as Jardine, the groundsman. He joined them in the pool and made arrangements to show Zadig around his domain immediately after lunch.

Cool and refreshed, they lay on the grass in the shade of a large Inga tree. After Jardine returned to his gardens, Sebastian asked somewhat nervously for their impressions, comments and questions about the research facility.

'I'm serious. We know nothing is ever perfect, so I want you to say exactly what you think, not what you think I want to hear. We're constantly worrying that something will go wrong, that the government will get wind of what we're doing and lock us away and torture us before slowly and painfully killing us—as they have become frighteningly adept at doing.'

'What I don't understand is why they're so cruel,' Hylas sighed. 'Please don't tell me it's always been like that in Australia, but kept secret.'

'Sorry to disappoint you, Hylas, but it has. Most people are still worried the Americans are going to invade us like they did New South Wales, not realising they already have. The day after JECHIS was dismantled our overlords invited the CIA in to setup assassination facilities, torture camps, interrogation rooms and all the other tools of terror with which they've been enslaving the world for nearly two centuries.'

'Surely they haven't!'

'Surely they have! Few people are aware of this because Australian mass media has always been the tool of corporate U.S.A.; spreading their propaganda. When the British Empire collapsed, the USA took over, using the same vile methods of subjugation the British used to gain and keep their colonies—indiscriminate use of terror, injustice, murder, rape, pillage and horror. How else could they have maintained total ownership and control of entire lands and people? The Spaniards were pretty good at it too, with their reign of terror in South America for five hundred years. Mind you, they had to rely on the constant support of the U.S.A.'

'But surely the people would have revolted?'

'It's the colonisers who were revolting! No one feels very brave if they are forced to watch tubes filled with starving rats shoved into the vaginas of their mothers and wives, or when hung by their thumbs or scrotums till they drop off. I'm not making this up; one of the few benefits of the Internet in its early stages was the release of millions of incriminating documents revealing the truth about colonial governments. That's why it's censored now.'

'Such evil torture is incomprehensible.'

'To you, maybe, but not to those with an inexhaustible lust for money and the power it brings. Soon after Columbus launched his business enterprise on the pristine beaches of the New World, each native above the age of puberty was required to remit a "hawk's bell's worth" of gold dust to the Spaniards every two weeks. The hands of all those failing to do so were cut off and strung around their necks so they bled to death, thus motivating the compliance of others. In North America, the English and other Europeans stole the land, then lent the indigenous people money so they could buy food. Then when they got into debt, everything else they owned was confiscated to pay it off, deliberately forcing them into further debt that could never be paid so they had to work for a pittance until they dropped, or were sold as slaves. At one stage there were more Native American Indian slaves than Negroes. Australia was built on the slave labour of the Aborigines in the outback, and Polynesian slaves in Queensland. What the current government is doing is the inevitable result of a civilization that worships competition, capitalism, and an endlessly expanding economy based on borrowing and debt. The fact that all so-called leaders are as dumb as shit, and can't see the absurdity and cruelty of their policies, doesn't change the reality of misery for ninety-nine percent of the population.'

'I feel ignorant.'

'But you are willing to listen, think and adjust your ideas and opinions. That makes you special and trustworthy.'

'I still don't understand how it was so easy for first JECHIS, and now this lot to take total control.'

'Before JECHIS governments made everyone frightened of terrorism by arranging a few false flag attacks; blaming them on people whose countries they've helped to destroy, so there was no resistance to repealing laws guaranteeing rights and privacy that have taken thousands of years of fighting, deprivation and hardship to get. JECHIS just continued in the same way. Terrified people will let you do anything if you tell them you're protecting them. They don't even ask what they're being protected from. What's happening here is now the norm on the entire planet, and this time they're not going to allow any ideas about the rights of man, participatory democracy, or justice for all to take root as they did for a few years in the twentieth century. This is it, forever, or until the seas rise and the climate changes so drastically humans can no longer survive.'

'You paint an unpleasant picture.'

'So what do we do?'

'Keep out of trouble and assist anyone you think is worth it, without endangering yourself. We don't believe in human sacrifice.'

'Neither do we.'

'I noticed all the lab assistants are non-European—are they some of the people you've assisted?'

'Yes. They're all indigenous Australians from either the mainland or Torres Strait. Jardine, Leon, and Claudius are also indigenous, as you will have realised. When they first came, Leon used to go out occasionally to clubs. One night on his way home he was picked up by the Protectors and dumped in a van with other indigenous lads. They were imprisoned in a basement until a ransom was paid. As none had any hope of being ransomed, they were rented out as sex slaves to men and women who like doing unpleasant things to dark boys. One was asphyxiated when the woman who'd hired him sat on his face and shat on him, he choked to death while she had a momentous orgasm, presumably. It was common, probably still is, for husband and wife to take one home and abuse him horribly. Causing pain and death being the ultimate turn on for some depraved people.'

'This is too horrible.'

'It's what humans do to other races. And Australia is one of the most racist places on planet earth. It took two hundred years before anyone would agree that Aborigines were human and allow them to be registered, have a passport and vote. But that was the high point, since then they've been kept poverty stricken, diseased and suicidal. Why? Because the rest of the population is terrified they might ask for a little bit of land to live on, or even to have a share in the riches.' Sebastian lapsed into silence.

'We tried to do something,' Jarek sighed, 'but it's impossible when the government doesn't want them to be equal. It took several days before we discovered Leon's whereabouts and paid his ransom, so he'd already experienced some pretty horrific abuse. When we learned about the other boys we went to the place during daytime and pretended we were interested in having fun with one. While they were showing us the kids on the surveillance video, we hit them on the head with iron bars, broke their arms and legs, then stripped them and suspended them by their toes so all their weight was on their heads. After lighting slow burning fuses attached to bundles of firelighters stacked around them and the place, we took the boys home with us. They're devoted, intelligent and the best lab assistants anyone could desire—according to the blokes they assist.'

'Is the fear of violence why Jardine, Leon and Claudius are leaving?'

'Partly. It isn't safe in towns for indigenous people. If they can, they're all heading for the bush in the hope of avoiding the attention of the Christians.'

'No doubt they leave with insanely generous severance pay?'

Sebastian smiled sadly. 'You already know us too well.'

The following day, Jardine, Leon and Claudius, Primo, Sebastian, Jarek, and the eight newcomers visited Sebastian's father, Rex, and his wife Fee, in their comfortable house in the hills above the city. Fourteen visitors should have been a crowd, but they all fitted nicely in the pool, conversation was pleasant and agreeable, and the atmosphere genial.

After a healthy meal, the hosts thanked Jardine, Leon and Claudius for teaching their replacements what was required, hoped all would go well for them up North, and reminded them that they would always be welcome to return, no matter when or why if things didn't work out.

Rex was pleased to have Hercules take over his job of doing nothing quietly in the background to allow the place to function smoothly. Leon reckoned Robert could handle the finances with no trouble, and Jardine said the grounds would be in good hands with Zadig. Fidel congratulated Fee and Rex for the quality of their genes as exhibited in Primo, who had spent the evening with a smile of vague incredulity on his lips. Speaking when spoken to, and laughing at the right time.

'Do you think of Rex and Fee as your parents?' Bart asked him.

'Of course not. My genes have been so altered that we have nothing in common. I like them, but feel no kinship. Just as I love and admire Jarek and Sebastian for being perfect foster parents to an alien who is so intrinsically different.'

'Are you pleased to be alive?' Hylas asked.

'I am alive and choose to remain so; that means I have no problem with it. I enjoy lots of things, especially being in the forest and having fun as we did the other day.'

'What about the reasons for creating you? Do you approve?'

'I am aware of Sebastian and Jarek's reasons for making me like this, and for creating more of us, but I don't see the point. I've not spent much time with adult humans other than those in this room, but from what I've heard the sooner they exterminate themselves the better. As for taking over the role of top predator—I'll wait to see what happens when there are more of us. Who knows, we may even fight amongst ourselves and kill off the experiment.' His smile gave the lie to that possibility.

'How many will you make?' Zadig asked Sebastian.

'As we mentioned the other day, we already have five. The other four are living with Stephen and Chloe, two dear friends who have a lovely old house not far from our place. They're the ideal couple to bring up infant alien geniuses, having more or less alienated themselves from the usual run of humanity… wouldn't you agree, Primo?'

'For humans, they're exceptional, that's certain. They're the reason I'm sane, I reckon.'

'You're possibly right. As for how many we'll create… fifty donors should give us a sufficient gene pool to create a viable species. From then on they can breed and fill the niches if and when they develop.'

'Breed. I've been wondering about that,' Mort admitted. 'If its not a rude question, how does that happen?'

'It's not rude, it's a good question, and goes to the heart of the whole enterprise. We decided two parents create friction and inhibit a child's development—especially mental. Separate mothers and fathers have been essential for the survival of our species in the past, but it's a weakness now. Our solution was to make the new men self pollinating—to borrow a horticultural expression.' Sebastian shot a smile at Jardine who grinned back. He turned to Primo. 'Do you mind showing them your sexual apparatus?'

'Of course not.' Primo lay back and raised his legs.

'As you can see everything's the same as us, except for the almost invisible slit in the perineum between the scrotum and anus. That's a vulva that opens into a vagina, which opens into a womb that will be fed one egg from a fallopian tube.'


'No, that's an extremely wasteful system. When Primo's body feels ready to breed, the female sexual organs will swell, an egg will be produced and he will have the urge to inseminate himself. That's the only time the female organs will be used, and it will only happen once—we think.'

'Will the babies be breast fed?'

'No. Mammary glands would be a severe disadvantage—they damage too easily. Babies will be able to eat prepared normal food immediately, like birds.'

'What about regular sex?'

'Exactly the same way we do it.'

'By we, I assume you weren't referring to Fee and Rex?'

'Right. The female parts are for breeding only, not pleasure.'

'Have you tried self fertilizing, Primo?'

'Never had the urge. The slit is still sealed and I've no desire to experiment with it, but I'm looking forward to normal sex like you guys have; I'll just have to wait till the other new men grow.'

'Would you like to have sex with a human?'

Primo shook his head firmly. 'Definitely not. No more than you'd like to have sex with an orang-utan. No offence, but… perhaps one day out of curiosity.' He grinned and gazed down appreciatively at his own perfectly formed body, flawless velvety skin and lean fitness.

'Makes sense,' Hercules said softly. 'I have to admit that compared to you, humans look almost unfinished; coarser, less well designed and assembled somewhat carelessly.' He grinned at Hylas's raised eyebrow. 'Yes, oh beautiful youngish man; even you are not quite in the same league.'

'That's telling you, brother,' Fidel laughed. Then as if he'd just thought of it, asked, 'Have you enough donors? If you haven't, I'd like to suggest Robert's parents, they are the wisest, kindest, most sensible people I've ever met.'

Sebastian turned to Robert. 'Do you agree?'

'Ask Bart.'


'Good, we'll work on it.'

By the end of the following week, a long, wide and very deep trench had been excavated in the rocky hillside above Sebastian's house. It was large enough to contain six individual dwellings, each with their own exit and all connected by underground passageways. The two extra dwellings would be for Primo and his 'brothers' to live in until they decided how and where they wanted to live. Every spare minute was taken up with plans and ideas for the perfect abode.

Six months later, the view from Sebastian and Jarek's verandah was unchanged from the day Hercules and friends first saw it, but behind a stand of melaleucas, the hillside had gained an attractive rockery already covered in sprawling vegetation. The inmates of the new subterranean houses were delighted with their comfortable and charming quarters, each of which had a private outdoor living area concealed in the 'rockery' above, where they spent most of their spare time. Primo and his brothers were living in one of the other 'caves'. Due to the extraordinary precocity of their species they were already capable of taking care of themselves.

Fidel and friends no longer felt like guests, having settled naturally into their jobs at the laboratory, which continued the slow process of turning out new boys who went immediately to live with Primo and his mates. The children were delightful. Serious yet fun loving. Sensible and uncomplaining. Impossibly healthy and quick to learn, able to walk, run, talk and think rationally within the first four months.

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