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The Suncaster: The Reefsong, #1

The Suncaster: The Reefsong, #1

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The Suncaster: The Reefsong, #1

326 pages
4 hours
Jan 27, 2016


It is 2104 and a New Age for humanity. Technology and inspirational wisdom have together healed the Earth, eliminated most life-threatening disease and extended by a generation the human lifespan.

Life is disciplined in this new Age of Mind, but air steward Kieron Keats can live with that. And, of course, he has little choice.

By living quietly and working hard he's raised his daughter, Teria, to the eve of graduation, and if he keeps his head down and his body looking fit he should have work for years to come.

All Keats wants is to keep them safe. Teria wants more.

The Suncaster is a good, smart read, a novel for seekers and idea-people. A vision of the future based on the present and the past, of technology, of society, but most of all a novel of emergent 'man—of who we may become, and who else we might be along the way.

Jan 27, 2016

About the author

When the writing didn’t come when he asked for it as a young man, Mark Belfry accepted the career that offered, a joyfully eclectic leadership path through diverse industries, until returning eventually to where he’d started, sharing ideas in word form, now armed with the confidence of experience. Through it all there have been three constants: service to people; daily 4 AM meditation that brought him ever closer to the constant light, and from which the Farmer lately emerged; and his partner, Tricia, without whom, who knows?  The Farmer would say that we are one, and that our purpose is to discover this in a meaningful way and then live it. And there Mark’s work continues. Come share the way and follow the Farmer at www.markbelfry.com.

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The Suncaster - Mark Belfry

Friday February 29, 2104

1. Space & Time

I am convinced that all the evils of the world are enabled by one great falsehood: the belief in a single line of time, an error on which our sense of self and separation wholly depends. Look again: what we call time is not a line but a surface passing at once through all creation. And neither is it an instrument of separation, but the opposite.

—The Reverend Friend Farmer, ‘The Dimensions of Miracles’ (2031)


Steward Kieron Keats worked the short hop intercontinental home from Paris on the morning of the Leap holiday, checking seatbelts while watching holiday programming in his personal display. The date was February 29, 2104, and the voice and face in Keats’ display was that of HB Marbilli, the Father of the New Age, or more commonly, the new Age.

Are we not living in days of wonder? Marbilli asked, his iridescent eyes unaffected by his years. Marbilli’s speech had been a holiday fixture since before Keats was born.

Do we not now pass each day in safety and peace?

The cabin lights were dim and the passengers silent in the final minutes before re-entry, many looking up through the ship’s translucent ceiling at the moon beyond. They, too, would have Marbilli’s speech in their displays, Keats knew, even those whose eyes followed him as he worked. Watching Marbilli on Leap Day morning was what one did.

We enjoy abundant well-being. We have healed the planet and achieved long life. And we’ve done it together.

Close up, Marbilli’s face wasn’t particularly pleasant—a truth no one could be condemned for thinking, he thought, although Keats glanced around anyway to make sure nobody’d caught him. The old man was what? Over a hundred years old.

Never handsome, Marbilli’s face had become scrunched and small, with bony cheekbones, thin lips under the famous nose, and some kind of rash on his chin. Whatever active cosmetics he used, surely the best available, they no longer seemed up to the job.

On this Leap Holiday we celebrate you, my friends, in recognition of all that you have achieved.

Marbilli’s speech changed little year to year, bringing memories of Leap holidays of the past, just Keats and his little girl, although Teria wasn’t so little anymore. Presents, virtual travel to exotic destinations and special brunches, teddy bear pancakes giving way over the years to smoked salmon. This would have been their fifth leap year together if he’d stayed home. But today Teria would be busy without him, and he’d accepted this Paris run to avoid spending the day alone.

He was bringing her a present home with him, the best affordable fashion application from one of the design shops on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Of course, Teria could download the app in a week or two, but with his gift she’d be the first to wear it. Also, it was cheaper this way.

We have followed the path the Reverend Farmer drew for us, and today we celebrate the Great Human Leap.

Keats blinked open the time in his display. About now, Teria would be arriving at the pitch for practice. She was excited on game days, and this was a big one, her final home game before her Masters graduation.

The defeats of the past, the existential threats, diseases and addictions, individual and planetary, all are now history.

Having checked belts on the starboard side, Keats walked across the front of the ship to the middle aisle but stopped as the second steward entered the aisle from the rear. The congruence made him smile but of course Kitty didn’t return it, so he moved to the portside aisle without another glance. She’d checked that aisle already, but he would do it again, as he would check the center aisle after she was done.

Kitty was lovely to look at but very, very dim. The poor girl was an Incap, as so many second stewards were.

Second stewards performed menial tasks but served primarily as visual distractions, as they had since the early days of suborbital flight when passengers were fearful of the re-entry process. Keats was little different. He was the responsible human in the cabin, but the ship did the real work. Humans served the inexplicable but now proven need for psycho-emotional touch, which only living beings provide.

And if they were attractive humans, so much the better. So, when he was home, Keats took his forty-one-year old ex-athlete’s body to the gym and drove it as hard as he could, and at work he smiled politely, looked good in his uniform omnisuit, and had his choice of flights.

Kitty was a fair partner for an Incap. She followed instructions better than others he’d worked with and seemed to have some kind of awareness that put her in the right place at the right time. But the poor girl could barely form a sentence. Her phrases came out in little heartbeat two-part cadences that left him waiting for the next word.

While he worked he ignored her as he ignored Marbilli, the better part of his mind being with his daughter. But then the camera zoomed in on Marbillis brilliant blue eyes, almost as if he knew Keats wasn’t paying attention.

Keats stopped in the aisle to focus his eyes on the image in his display. Something was wrong.

Within those eyes there was motion, in their intense blue a red spark.

*       *      *

Are we not living in days of wonder?

Immeasurably rich, infinitely powerful and incredibly old, HB Marbilli projected as a benign father addressing beloved children.

Oh, God, Ngrid Morman thought, and turned him off.

Not that she’d deny the old man his moment, she thought, as she looked through her bookmarks for something else to watch during the final minutes before re-entry. The world seemed to love HB Marbilli, perhaps with reason.

This was his holiday, or at least a holiday thanks to him—the Leap, a major event every fourth year, and even more so on this first Leap of a new century. The 29th was a Friday this year too, so a long weekend, which would make everyone happy—except perhaps Marbilli, as it was said he never took holidays. But with the usual Monday half-day workday, this would be a nice long weekend for everyone else.

Morman was glad for the extra day. She needed to get settled in and had homework to do before Monday, when her new life began.

The blogs called Marbilli the Father of the Leap, for which she assumed they were well paid. But, the claim had some merit. His invention of the flatbike all those years ago had been a prelude to what was now called the Miracle Decade, the dozen or so years back in the middle of the last century that had delivered the planet from so many chronic problems—humanity’s so-called Leap, which most of the world celebrated today.

Marbilli also discovered the Reverend Farmer and promoted his vision, the Farmer’s Age of Mind, the insights on which the Leap to the new Age had been built.

She flipped deeper and deeper in her 3D thumbnails, the cubes in her display, seeing Marbilli’s ugly face everywhere. But she knew she’d find what she was looking for. On this holiday morning a blog not showing Marbilli was certain to present the winning school interpretation of The Great Human Reef, the introduction to the first of the Reverend Farmer’s books. It had to be one or the other: the principles of congruence were only so flexible.

Morman didn’t entirely believe in the Leap, as she was uncomfortable with so many of the fixed positions of the right. She was troubled by the conforming influence. Being a human of the new Age meant new responsibilities, but she’d never believed that was what the Farmer intended when he wrote about managing behavior in the realm of mind.

Morman kept her reservations to herself. Even at her senior level, skepticism could be dangerous.

What she did believe was the core principle: Morman believed in people, and thought the holiday was a good idea, even that it should be annual. Why not set a day aside to remind people at all levels of their potential and responsibilities? Why not celebrate the whole of humanity instead of some historical event or person now only marginally relevant?

Ah, this could be it, she thought, spotting a different face than Marbilli’s in a new blog just as the blog switched to ads.

*       *      *

Are we not living in days of wonder?

The ship’s second steward was listening. Listening was what Kitty did.

She didn’t wear an eRing display on her ear as the passengers and the other steward did; with her status as an Incap it wasn’t expected. But Kitty didn’t need it. She heard what they heard.

And what she heard now was comfortable, old Marbilli’s voice instilling order in the minds around her despite his rough tone. Around her the passengers’ thoughts drifted through the trivial, while Marbilli’s penetrating eyes and intrusive voice sheepdogged their thoughts into a harmonic chorus, a rare and soothing phenomenon.

For the moment she was glad she’d come, although she still couldn’t say why she had. More and more the Service assigned her to other tasks, but she’d felt the urge to accept this series of flights and wasn’t sure why.

So, she listened. Moving up her aisle, she didn’t look at the seat locks and belts, they would be fine as always. She listened, certain there was something, knowing it would come.

*       *      *

Ngrid Morman waited while the blog ran through a series of ads for various fitness programs, something called a love alphabet and a type of body lotion she was old enough to think shouldn’t be advertised unrestricted.

She raised the volume when the talking head that caught her attention reappeared.

The Great Reef includes all the themes of the Farmer’s later writings, a bearded young man said. "These are, of course, responsibility in the higher realms..."

Morman muted the sound and looked around. The ship was clean and modern; she guessed it to be relatively new from the fittings, and the way the moon shone with minimal distortion through the carbon-rod fuselage.

There’d been no suborbital flights when Morman was a girl, and you couldn’t see through the fuselage of the airship back then either. She didn’t find the descent through the atmosphere disturbing—it was routine now, there hadn’t been a problem in more than a generation—but she found it odd looking out through the top of the ship as if it were one great window, and chose to sit as far from the translucent walls as she could. The transparency of the fuselage of these new airships was astonishing, almost like the glass in old buildings.

The seats were a little close together, she thought, especially back here in economy where she’d chosen to sit. But not too close. SkyFerry had a reputation for being more comfortable than other lines. It might be less profitable, but it had a loyal clientele.

Good staff, too, she thought. The first steward looked competent, friendly and, frankly, gorgeous. The youthful features were striking on such a large man, the high forehead a desirable feature in this so-called Age of Mind, and the slightly offset nose added intrigue. He seemed a polite man with little apparent depth, but then there was the broken nose.

He obviously worked out, but his uniform styling would have to change. So much roving exposure was practically cringe-making. The man could wear it, there was no doubt about that, but it was a wonder he stood for it—then she corrected herself. His compliance wasn’t surprising at all. That, too, was the Leap.

Years earlier, airlines tried robotic stewards, which required state permission due to the robots being mobile, but passengers wouldn’t fly with those companies even after human stewards were re-instated. The subsequent provision of comfort pets remained one of the most-mocked failures of the shift to automation.

Human touch was a complex matter, and it was now believed, after immense study, that the baser the human concern, like fear of being torn apart re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, were best matched with baser forms of touch like sexual stimuli. So, stewards were attractive, and under-dressed.

Morman looked down at her own tight-fitting high-tech suit, programmed silver on ivory with its soupcon of gold that disappeared as the eye found it. Her style held ‘tonies’ as well, small transparent windows on the flesh that slipped in and out of the pattern, playing peek-a-boo with the eye. On her suit the tonies were tiny, but on the steward’s they were large as lemons and showed more of him than Morman wanted to see.

As well, Morman wore a vest, as did all the passengers, although hers was higher end as the motion in her suit continued in the vest. Vests came in all lengths and forms. They were a way of hiding, a distraction for the eye similar to motion in the suit, as omnisuits were skintight and not everyone wore them well.

The steward’s suits was vestless. He was on display.

Morman’s eyes found the female steward. Her uniform style was less revealing, although she, too, wore no vest. With a shape like that she didn’t need it, but that was true of the male steward as well.

The woman’s respectful uniform confirmed her understanding, that SkyFerry was an old-fashioned company. She liked that. But even more, she liked the company’s decision to upgrade its image by bringing in the new, more psyched-in chief officer, Ngrid Morman.

She wasn’t old—with modern life expectancies she could reasonably expect another fifty years or more—but she’d begun to feel it. For twenty-five years the fashion industry had given Morman everything she wanted, but for the last three or four she’d been looking around. It might have been the constant presence of young beauty in her work, but she didn’t think so. She’d never looked like that anyway. It was change she needed, new challenges and new learnings, like turning around a failing airline.

The second steward caught her staring, which Morman hadn’t realized she was doing. She smiled and looked away, thinking beauty was like that; it held the eye and calmed the mind. And this young woman was extraordinarily beautiful.

Morman wasn’t unfamiliar with Incaps, although they weren’t as common in Europe where she’d worked. A few years ago, the Service, the agency for the intellectually underprivileged, had approached her, and afterward she’d employed Incap models from time to time. When she could, she’d kept a curious eye on the handsome young men and women the Service provided, finding them willing and dependable. Except for the annoying disinclination to look a person in the eye, or even focus, the so-called Incaps she’d hired seemed little different from other journeymen models she’d employed.

Why did these polite, introverted types going quietly about their work carry the ugly sobriquetIncap, incapacitated, incapablewhile the vivacious airheads that prattled away backstage and stumbled between disastrous relationships did not? And what did they do at this Service? Couldn’t someone there teach this woman to look you in the eye?

Of course, people need something to look down on, and in this so-called Age of Mind that would naturally have to do with the intellect. To discriminate on the basis of physical attributes would be prejudice, a sign of incongruence. But to discriminate on the basis of the intellect was different, or so she understood the argument to be.

Incaps were considered incapable of contributing intellectually to essential communal envisioning and the co-creation of reality, all that jargon the world now believed. So it wasn’t discrimination at all, but necessary. It was the Distinction.

My God, isn’t he done now? Morman returned to her display and blinked up the sound.

... to absorb again the Farmer’s powerful wisdom, to reinforce our role and purpose in the progress of our times. And now for your enjoyment I am pleased to present, The Great Reef.

Finally, Morman thought, as her display cleared for the video. In the unfilled space between the commentator and the vid, Morman’s eyes again found the woman steward, who bent to look at something on the floor. Morman saw a flash on the wall over the girl’s slim back.

There were lights in the galley—no, not lights. Numbers.

Everything seeks self-expression, a young woman’s voice said as a tawny eye filled Morman’s display.

But she was no longer paying attention. She was looking around for the steward, the intelligent one.

*       *      *

Keats would have blinked Marbilli off but didn’t dare. SkyFerry might be the best employer among the intercontinental ferry lines—Keats worked them all—but he expected that they tracked workday grid activity like every other employer. Taking a pass on the beloved Father of the new Age, and its most generous investor, would not seem congruent.

To be incongruent was to be unemployable, and therefore unemployed, and Keats had a daughter to care for. SkyFerry called him regularly, and he didn’t intend that to change. And besides, the company was going through some kind of restructuring. With the old CEO out and a new one coming in, it was definitely not the time to raise doubts.

He blinked to clear his mind and inadvertently brought down multiple views of the cabin from his bookmarks, while reducing Marbilli and his still speaking voice to a thumbnail below his eyebrows. Embarrassed by his clumsiness, Keats sent the cabin views to his bookmarks, brought Marbilli to the front and turned his attention back to his job—feeling eyes on him as he did. Kitty, the second steward, was looking at him over her shoulder while in the process of standing in the other aisle.

This was odd. What was she doing at floor level? And she held his eyes with hers. Incaps didn’t do that. When she stepped forward, Keats saw behind her a square-built, silver-haired woman motioning at him.

This was odd as well. If she wanted him she should ping him, nobody waved. He moved toward her, noting the style of her suit. The woman had money, obviously, and money meant connections. So why was she sitting back here?

Then she stood, making him check his step. Money or not, to stand at this height passengers requested localized gravity unless they were prepared, and why would she need to be prepared?

The woman pointed at the galley.

Keats turned and saw numbers flashing side by side on a discrete console. One was silver, the other red.

69...68...67 flashed the silver number.

82...81...80 blinked the red.

This must have been the flash of red he’d seen through Marbilli’s eyes, which reassured him. He’d thought for a moment Marbilli was, well, mad.

Then he realized what the numbers might mean. His thoughts stopped and Keats stood motionless, his mind as silent as the silent ship, slipping through darkness with its thrusters off.

*       *      *

Keats was moving again. Prodded by Marbilli’s voice he walked toward the errant console, his training slowing his pace to hide his concern.

Today we enjoy the prosperity and peace that we have together created. But we can be greater yet...

64 flashed the silver number.

77 blinked the red.

These were sequences from the earliest days of suborbital flight, indicators that were discontinued once passengers made the adjustment. The silver sequence counted the seconds before the braking of re-entry. The red sequence anticipated the moment the ship leveled for disembarkation.

The two events must not, could never, happen at the same time.

For re-entry the ship turned the heat-mitigation technology in its blunt backside toward the earth’s atmosphere, entering backwards at a critical angle, which it maintained for several minutes. Sometime after, the now forward-facing ship would level out parallel to the earth in preparation for disembarkation.

If the two happened at once—if the ship changed its angle of approach during re-entry—the mechanisms protecting the ship from the heat and pressure of atmospheric re-entry would be neutralized. The ship would broach, crumple, and burn like a struck match, spreading fireball tracers across the sky.

Here’s what I need from you, Marbilli continued.

The flight deck, of course, would be seeing the same indicator. This being their problem, not his, Keats breathed deeply and tried to relax, but the question remained, was it the console or the ship? The answer could mean their lives.

60 read the silver number; 73 flashed the red.

I need you to help me create a new miracle.

Keats blinked Marbilli to the bookmark bar under his eyebrows but the old man’s voice wouldn’t stop. He tried twice more, once to close the cube, once to mute, but neither command worked. He was fumbling mentally, he couldn’t generate the focus, so Marbilli continued to lecture from a thumbnail at the top of Keats’s vision.

So, what was it, the console or the ship?

If it the console these were just numbers, a moment of excitement quickly passed.

That was the probable.

Or was it the ship itself? Would it attempt to turn in the critical moments of re-entry? That was the improbable—the inconceivable possible that would mean these were the last moments of his life. Of all their lives.

And there was still the question of whether to check with the flight deck. Keats was a cautious man, his nature established in the snakes and ladders of childhood, when he’d learned how quickly things can change. He made no waves; he was all congruence, all the time. But which was the safe choice now?

I have seen a miracle, Marbilli said. And now you will. It was the greatest moment of my life, and it will be yours, the moment when, together, you and I shift reality for the benefit of all!

53 blinked the silver number. 66 flashed the red.

Should Keats assume the best and hope? And die in a scatter of flaming debris—he couldn’t imagine that; his mind simply wouldn’t. Or he could speak out on the chance of saving lives, including his. If anyone would believe a lowly steward. But was he prepared to pay the price?

There are certain ingredients. Let me share them with you now...

Keats didn’t know exactly what was happening or why, but he knew this, there were no accidents. Once the algorithms were right they were right; nothing went wrong and nothing could go wrong.

In the Age of Mind, ‘accidents’ were a product of wrong thinking, and wrong thinking was not allowed. If someone were to be blamed—as someone would—it would be Kieron Keats, son of the famous Incon. However it turned out, Keats would be at fault.

In the background, Marbilli continued talking about miracles.

46 flashed the silver number. 59 blinked the red.

But then there was Teria. Keats reached out to his daughter instinctively, ‘vmailing’ words his display silenced to a ‘mime,’ a quick voice message no one around could hear. He hadn’t thought to do it; it just seemed to happen.

He got back a personalized form response: Not right now, dad. Love you.

Pilot, Keats heard himself say, surprising himself. With the decision made, he moved to the galley.

Pilot, he said again, this time miming, instructing his display to corral his voice so the passengers wouldn’t hear. Do we have a situation?

Sensing a presence, he glanced, and behind him stood the silver-haired woman passenger in the expensive suit, near enough to hear his voice over the miming app.

What the hell was she doing here? And how was she doing it? He looked at her feet, saw low gravity tabs on her shoes, glanced into her eyes and looked away.

No response from the bridge.

Marbilli droned on. Let us join together, to usher in a new day, a new stage in our evolution. To fulfill our purpose; to fulfill our dreams.

Pilot, Keats said again.

Please come. The Miracle Step, Sunday, 10 PM, Mindillico Square. Be part of a miracle, Marbilli continued. I promise you a revelation.

Busy here, steward, a cool, female voice responded from the

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