Chapter

Bubble

Flight


Brett Walpole

EXO:LIFE

Chapter Two

Once the Fortuna tribe had started moving it was to keep doing so.  They became nomads, resting where they could and making the most of life according to the changing seasons.  Where they met with others they repeated the ways they had learned from their first encounters and gained more insight, both practical and intellectual in nature, with every new meeting.

Sometimes violence reared its ugly head.  Not all they came across were so accommodating of differences in origin, skin colour or language.  Members of the family were lost to random acts of hatred.  In such cases the fight or flight instinct always came down on the side of leaving, to stay mobile and in motion was not only the best solution to such problems but became a way of life.  Knowing that their home was a place to be carried inside meant they could take it anywhere.

More were lost by further cases of strange ailments, conditions and disease for which they had no cures.  Although more babies were born, some whilst travelling, the Fortuna clan began to dwindle in size.  They were an endangered species and knew that should an end come to their line, the true destiny that drove them would weaken and ultimately die along with them.  This thought was always at the forefront of their minds and solutions were an immediate concern.

Coming to the conclusion that they must settle amongst well established native people the search began for a suitable location.  Several towns and villages were considered and many were rejected as being less than perfect for their needs.  There were criteria to be met but most of all they needed to feel accepted and safe with good prospects for the generations to come, somewhere they could integrate fully with a local and sustainable community.

The characteristic spirit of some places they happened upon was that there were not enough resources to go around.  These people would defend what they had worked for and wanted no one from the outside to interfere with their lives.  It was as though they had created a small, sealed world with no room for any extra guests.  Such people made their attitudes very clear and the Fortuna’s would pass through to the sounds of shouts and jeers.  In these inward looking communities there was a distrust of outsiders and no welcome of any kind.

One spring, after a particularly difficult time on the road in winter, they came across a village sitting at a point where two small rivers converged in the basin of a little valley.  It was a beautiful setting.  The melt-water from the surrounding hills ran into the rivers, flowers were on the grassy slopes of the valley and as they descended from their vantage point on the mountain range which encircled the settlement the Fortuna’s dared to hope they could make a permanent home here.

Now they were only twenty but perhaps it was this relatively small size that worked in their favour.  For when they entered the village they could see it was larger than initial appearances had lead them to believe.  Men and women alike were working in fields, and the huts were fairly substantial in construction.  Here were a people who intended to make their homes last, the signs looked good.

The numbers of villagers looked promising too.  There were as many as one hundred, and the hope was that they would accept twenty more.

Pando was just a small boy at this time but the first thing he noticed, as they crossed a small sturdy bridge on the edge of the village was the size and quantity of fish that he could see.  He paused, fascinated by their motion and studied for a few moments the grace with which they swam against the current of the perfectly clear water, quickly developing the urge to catch one.  For now he was obliged to keep up with, and stay close to, his ever moving family and the safety it held for him.

As a group they were greeted warmly if also understandably cautiously.  By now there were a growing number of dialects in the Fortuna’s vocabulary and they were able to make themselves easily understood.  Upon making pleasantries, telling of some of their travels and trading some valuable goods they had acquired and made, it was soon agreed that they could make their camp just outside the village.

After some days making themselves known to those who were for the most part friendly and curious, they made arrangements to speak with the elders of this busy and productive settlement.  Talking of skills and specialities of both the women and the men of his tribe the spokesman for the Fortuna’s asked whether they would be welcome to stay in the village and begin construction of houses.  After consulting each other these leaders agreed.  This was to be a first real physical home, surrounded by a mixture of people with whom they could relate, work and talk.  It was here that life and the ability to enjoy it began in earnest.

The boy Pando loved this home, it was a great arena to play, make friends and grow.  By the age of seven he was already an accomplished fisherman, his catch making a valuable contribution to his family’s table.  He had become an accomplished swimmer too, although the water was icy cold even in the summer, so much so that to jump in was a brave event in itself.

In the months that followed he saw houses erected, built in new styles which the Fortunas had adopted from their fellow villagers.  All spring and summer the clan put great pride and effort into this endeavour which involved the effort and energies of all. There were many lessons learned by trial and error, but with the help of their experienced new found friends the buildings of strong wood and stone added to the collection that were already in this scene of tranquillity.

Pando was allowed to run free, his parents knowing that he was safe from harm and could only become fitter and stronger, soon growing into a fine adolescent, helping whenever he could.  He knew many of the villagers by name but there was one who took his eye, a young girl by the name of Pushka.  They spent much time playing together and he found she was easily able to match him in games and wit.  They grew very fond of each other and came to be young, inexperienced lovers with only curiosity as their guide.

Their attempts at concealing this relationship, for fear it would be frowned upon, were ultimately pointless.  It soon became common knowledge among all that there was a great attraction here.  They were young stars and as such represented a beautiful hope for both sets of their parents.  Leading the way for others to engage in similar relationships, it was only a couple of years for there to emerge, amongst their elders as well as themselves, the question of whether they might like to make their relationship permanent.

There had been marriages in this village before, but none between those so young.  However, with the consent of their parents who were so proud of the partnership they were married in a small ceremony conducted by the wise man of the village.  It was a summer’s day, Pushka wore flowers in her hair and their clothes were made especially for the event by Pando’s mother, who worked with some of the other ladies to produce the finest of garments.  The small ceremony was followed by a large party, the likes of which were new to the Fortuna family.  The entire village celebrated the union, the first of many Fortuna’s to be forever linked in this way to the people of Earth.

Now Pando was more of a fisherman and a hunter than a builder but tradition among the village was that newly-weds were to build their own house.  Fortunately Pushka’s father was a master builder and she had learned many of the tricks of the trade.  She designed the house and Pando did his best to turn the concept into something that would stand the test of time.  The resulting building was one of great originality, unique among the settlement but with some inherent flaws and peculiarities that were innovative if not entirely successful.  Still, the structure kept out the rain, save for a couple of occasional leaks and was entirely functional.  There were those who looked upon it with a little laugh but they were equalled by those who found it somehow forward looking, ground-breaking even.

They lived happily in this house for many years, making improvements as and when necessary.  In particular, when a new baby, Pandina, was born an extra room was built. 

To live this simple life, in surroundings that provided all they needed was indeed great fortune.  To know long periods of peace and laughter and friendship that lasted through the years made for no reason to move.  Of course village life had its politics, arguments and occasionally people did leave, also there were accidents and deaths and trauma.  However the strength of this closely bound village was that everyone knew someone who could be of assistance.  The Fortunas were particularly in demand as they seemed to have knowledge in many areas, from whence this came the rest of the village would never know.

The secret of the Fortuna philosophy was to be held close to their hearts.  Their truth was related in stories that could be thought of as pure fiction by those who mistakenly overheard them.  The story as a means of handing down keys to the mysteries of their origins was perfected over time but was not all that was passed down through the ages.  The genetic make-up of Pando Fortuna was of a genius that could only have been forged in the evolution of a species from another world.  He knew he was different and he knew this might be seen as both a blessing and a curse.  He was well aware that all who would follow him in his line would feel the same way.  The mutations in his DNA gave him great improvements over natives in rationality and logical thought.  Also his capacity in abstract reasoning was unsurpassed.  He often had creative solutions to difficult problems and saw simplicity where others were confused.  All these gifts, his father warned him, were not only to benefit him, he must share his good fortune with others.  If it can be called such, this was his burden.

However, with self-knowledge, Pando began to carry such awareness with ease and even grace.  With this attitude came respect and gratitude from others.  His father was a very proud man, Pando Fortuna knew that the manner in which his son approached life would be echoed in time and that is how it was.  The house of Fortuna became one that would surely survive where others might falter.

Others in their tribe also took brides, some from within their clan, and others from native villagers.  The overall effect after a blissful forty years was that the village expanded many fold and the mixture of peoples, families and names brought a fabulous variety of colour to everyday life.

As others came from outside to make yet further additions soon the small village became a prosperous centre for trade in arable goods, materials, metal-work and building supplies.  The two rivers that joined in this place provided ample water for all to drink and wash clean the toil from bodies and clothes.

In that time there were two fires that destroyed several buildings.  Not one, not two but three sets of twins were born, all to Fortuna women.  Fighting became more prevalent as the Potato liquor became more common and the women started using ever more brightly coloured dyes in the manufacture of their clothing.

Naturally there were those that left, including several Fortunas.  Their reasons were varied and not always sound in the opinion of many.  Some wished to see the oceans of which seasoned travellers spoke.  Some had strong thoughts of independence and wanted to make a path into the future by themselves.  Others, perhaps leaving problems behind, vanished into the night with seeming strangers who were moving through whilst on a journey to faraway and exotic lands.

Pando had no such appetites and he was content to stay right where he was.  When he was an old man, with his wife Pushka still by his side, he had two sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren.  He considered himself to be the luckiest man alive and this was a truth that few could counter.

When he died he was buried just outside the town at the foot of an oak tree. There was nothing further he could have done in life to ensure that his mission would proceed to completion, his life work would be done, his dream would have wings and his own tree of life would flourish.

The name of Pando Fortuna made leaps and bounds.  For the man himself there was always a meaningful inner dialogue that proved to be both a guide and a companion.  With his successes came money and notoriety, with his failures came lessons learned and humility amongst his brethren. 

Many men were named Pando Fortuna, all heard the voice of their fathers within and all dedicated their lives to the future of the world that had adopted them.  Pando Fortuna was dispersed far and wide, exploration being of a fundamental motivation.  He learned yet further languages, mapped out many territories, took brides wherever love grew and brought children into the world who were strong and beautiful in both body and mind.  Every boy was another Pando and every upbringing included tales of Fortuna, dating back to another world which revolved around another sun.

The daughters were exceptional, gaining all the creativity of their ancestors.  They were adept at music, writing, design, and dance and their athleticism gave rise to prowess in sport.  They were loved by their partners and found ever more inventive ways of expressing such love.  They loved their brothers too, knowing that they carried the additional weight of their very long term purpose.

From generation to generation the stories they told their children became diluted or exaggerated or even forgotten completely.  There were many Pando Fortunas roaming the planet who had completely lost touch with their roots.  Externally only the name remained as any indicator of where they had come from in the first instance.  However all carried the code within themselves whether they knew it or not.

In some cases the name itself was lost.  People change their names by continuous usage of an alter ego, for personal reasons best known to themselves.  The special genes of Fortuna ancestry were more difficult to shake.  Even so, some genes were mutated, deactivated or deselected by natural choice of forces beyond the control of the individual.

Pando lived and Pando died.  Always he tried to bring peace, many times he succeeded.  His line multiplied and reached into the future, by the end of the twentieth century there was a descendant of that first tribe in most habitable countries in the world.  Pando Fortuna was not famous but was involved in every occupation under this sun and he mixed with every type of people that Earth has to offer.

Pando was a lawyer, a builder, a librarian, a cook, a judge, a mechanic, a policeman, a lumberjack, a doctor, there was little that he couldn’t do when he put his mind to it.  Of course Pando was also a beggar, a patient, a thief, a drunk, a madman, a fool, a victim, a liar and a convict.  Circumstances could be overpowering even when given a gifted head start.

By this time he looked as different from each of his brothers as one could possibly imagine.  He was a mix of every race, creed and colour that the planet had beautifully brought forth.  With laughter and music of every kind in his heart he represented every facet of vibrant life and was a wonderful combination of opposites.  There was natural rhythm in his walk which ultimately propelled him to great distances and heights.  He leant himself to every challenge and was no stranger to hard work.

When Pando found himself at the dawn of a new millennium he paused.  The twenty-first century lay stretched out ahead of him as a road of possibility.  Except this road was not on any map, and although there were no directions, all possibilities appeared attractive.

Something profound happened - he was all men, yet he was only one man.  He had no aspirations to conquer, no inclination to command followers, no vision of power.  Instead he felt alone but not lonely, single but not abandoned.  It was with this consciousness that he could focus plainly on what he felt about his life and the lives of all who live on Earth.

The lives he had lived and the life he had been given had both cause and effect.  This, Pando remembered the stories, was in touch with the rich inner dialogue he had cultivated since a boy and knew there was a purpose to his existence.  To live and to die was not good enough for the man.  To leave a legacy was in itself just a start.  He needed more, he needed to reach those who had given him the thread to his narrative from the very beginning, right up to this very point in the present.

Within him his family’s story was strong.  In his mind, his own memories and those of the Fortunas who had gone before him, were held as a vast, expansive fabric, woven into deep and detailed patterns, every continuous thread and stitch representing events and knowledge that would have been otherwise lost.  This great ribbon of material stretched and wound its way back through all those generations of careful storytellers to the very origin of their journey.

Most strangely he was also a Monk, a very old one, a Pando Fortuna by blood if not name.  As such he had a very mysterious power, unknowable to anyone who had not taken his particular path.  Perhaps he even held a type of awareness that did not exist in any other domain or on any other world.  Action at a distance, the ability to effect change without physical contact, an inherited gift that could only be thought of as a magic by those unfamiliar with its workings. It was this gift that would be used to reach out to his brothers on Earth, the planet on which they had made their home away from home.

There were five Pando Fortunas in particular who had progressed steadily and diligently in their work and personal lives throughout these ages, up to the here and now, and their stories had meaning and consequences beyond even their own imaginations.

In the modern world, with all its wars, problems, discoveries and beauty, there was a Pando who was a Photographer, one was an Architect, another was a Musician, one more was a Physicist, and there was also a Businessman.  The Monk would need to utilise all the powers at his command if his message, his call for action, were to find its direction to the lives of these five young men.  If just one of these descendants of this age old race from another solar system could complete the task, with which their forefathers had entrusted them, then they would truly be the master of their destiny.