The Founder collected Tom, Maddie, Don and Jacqueline from Don’s flat and they all continued their slow progress up to the penthouse suite. Everyone was very quiet and slightly in awe. They had confirmed that the Tower was surrounded by Enforcers. Looking through various windows, Hills and Hodges could see three rows of helmeted, armed, blue-armoured paramilitaries, with their dogs, circling around, in and out of the shrubbery. Spotlights played onto the building. There was no escape.
They all assembled in a large room that looked like a laboratory. The Founder glanced around, giving eye-contact to every individual and smiling.
“The Mission to Alpha-Centauri has failed!” he said, not as sadly as they would have expected. “But in the meantime, my scientists on Quartz Mountain have developed new technologies. The Earth is doomed; that is now clear. We have to start again somewhere else, but we can’t leave behind everything we have achieved. We have developed technologies that will allow us to go as ourselves, but our genes will be modified so that nothing is lost. DNA engineering and nano-chip manufacture has progressed to a degree that even I thought impossible a few years ago. We don’t need implants anymore. We can alter our DNA to include a collective consciousness, a tribal memory that can recall any known fact, experience, or achievement. But you would have the “Free Will” that you all are so desperate to cling onto. There will be no more commercialism; it won’t be needed. Are you with me?”
They shuffled from foot to foot, realising the plight they were in, but not quite trusting this manifestation of all their fears for the future. They didn’t know where this was leading anyway.
Tom and Maddie looked at each other, nodded, and stepped forwards.
“We’ll come!” they said, in unison.
Hills and Hodges, McGill and McGilly were horrified. They gasped in disbelief, and with a certain guilty feeling at the back of their minds. “No, no! Don’t trust him!”
“What choice do we have? Besides, Maddie is pregnant!” said Tom. “Come with us. Be our Helpers. You too, Don and Jacqueline; we trust you!”
“I’d come, gladly,” replied Don. “But I’m afraid my time is up. I can feel the radiation sickness beginning to take hold. I fear I only have a few weeks left. Jacqui, you go with them!”
“I only have room for twelve of you. Choose carefully!” said The Founder. “I will tell the Enforcers to let the rest go, if you agree to this.”
They conferred amongst themselves. Despite the coercion, six youngsters were chosen, including Tom and Maddie.
Hodges, Hillsy and the McGills insisted on going, still not trusting the motives of The Founder. Phil and Jacqueline took the remaining places, as knowledgeable keepers of technology and culture.
Saying their sad goodbyes, they made their way up the spiral staircase in the corner of the room to the heli-pad on the roof. They climbed into the large, black helicopter, tears streaming from their eyes as they noticed a dark cloud on the horizon, obscuring the dawn. The Founder climbed in last of all, a quiet smile on his face.