‘That’s the reaction we always get,’ Luden said. His expression backed that up. It reminded me of one of my teachers back in--- wherever the hell we had come from. ‘I think you need some proof then Tom---come with me--- I’ll take you all on a little escapade that will put you in the picture. Firstly some explanation about ‘when,’ rather than where you are. You have all jumped twenty years into the future.’
He let us take that in. Tania didn’t react; she appeared to be nodding off, leaning against Rangi, who took her in her arms and laid her down on a couch. Mick had this look that said—you’re crazy man. ‘So that makes the year---ah let me think--- 2033--- you gotta be on something mate.’
‘Come with me--- Rangi--- you and Jed better stay here and message me if you pick up any ‘searcher’ activity in the area. It’s been unerringly quite of late. They have to be up to something. Look after this young lady. I don’t think she will understand what I am about to show the others.’
We scrambled back down the rickety rope ladder and waited behind Luden. He seemed to be waiting for a signal of some sort. He used the time to masker us even more confused. ‘I’m afraid you have arrived in a very different world to the one you came from. New Zealand is not the place you left. We are part of the resistance movement, hiding all over the place--- anywhere but in the cities although we do have our contacts sending us information.’
‘So who the hell are you resisting then, even if I did believe the crap about time travel?’ I said. ‘And as for these trees that swallow us up--- this has to be a dream and I’m gonna wake up any minute.’
‘Patience my friend--- all will be revealed. Oh--- this isn’t a tree and the colours you saw out there--- well they are the result of the great ‘shrug’ the earth gave us a few years ago. If you think New Zealand is strange or crazy, I won’t even attempt to tell you what most of the remainder of the planet looks like,’ Luden said with a sad look on his face. ‘That made new Zealand a place that everyone wanted to come to. The ‘falling out’ was about three and a half years ago. Let’s just say that there are no super powers now--- they are all pretty equal and some sort of a balance has been reached.’
My head was dizzy with images of burnt out, nuked landscapes. Luden must have read my thoughts. ‘Forget those old movies you lot used to watch on your funny old screens--- it was not like that. The world had long given up on nuking one another--- they had something much worse--- their own inability to come to terms with the fact that the earth’s resources were not a bottomless well. We ran out of raw materials and by then, the earth was one huge mess, apart from a few countries—us for instance and for a while, Australia.’
By now we had left the ‘tree’ and were following a path through a vision from a science fiction movie. There were no sounds of birds, just a whistling high above us.
‘What’s that weird noise?’ I asked.
Jed shrugged. ‘You’ll get used to it. After a while you don’t even notice it. Some reckon it is the fragments flying around high above the earth. There were massive fires after the wars and the smoke only recently started to break up. That is where the colours come from--- the water and the tress, reflecting off the Ionosphere-----.’
‘But you said there were no nukes,’ Mick interrupted.
‘Didn’t need them--- the weapons of mass destruction took on a whole new form, with all of those drones flying around. The ‘searchers still use them and that’s what we are trying to hide from now.’
Alter a few minutes we emerged into a clearing and I could see that we were high up in a range of hills. That didn’t make sense. When the truck left the road we were not far from the town. ‘Luden, why are we up here---? You said we had time hopped or something. Shouldn’t we have arrived at the same place?’
Luden just smiled. ‘You really have seen too many films. I don’t know how to why it works---it just does--- and before you ask--- how many of us came through---? Well over the years there has been at least a thousand and then there are those who escaped when the invasion happened. There are many thousands of us hiding in all parts of New Zealand and we are connected by our sat phones. I can tell you that really pisses off the ‘searchers.’
‘Look, who are these ‘searchers’ and where do they come from? You just mentioned an invasion. I’m bloody confused,’ Mick said.
Luden motioned to a large trunk beside the pathway we were following. ‘Sit for a while. I don’t think I can tell you everything in few minutes, but I think you better understand a bit more, before we get to the look-out. ‘I’ll have to give you run down of ‘recent history.’ We settled a little uncomfortable on the trunk, our eyes continually looking upward as if there was an unseen threat. Luden noticed this too.
‘It is good that you stay vigilant, because that is where the main danger lies at these altitudes,’ Luden said soberly. ‘Luckily for us, the drones the ‘searchers’ use are becoming less of a threat as they gradually wear out or crash. They don’t seem to have the technology to replace them. I’ll go back in time for you.’
‘If you’re thinking that the invasion I referred to was one that consisted of armies and bombings, well you’d be wrong. It wasn’t one nation either as such that arrived on our shores. I’m sure you would have been aware of the debate about the ‘Global Economy’ and how it reached into every country on earth and how it threatened the very existence of many countries. Remember all of those protests against the move? They were correct, but not quite in the way they portrayed their opposition.’ Luden stopped, waiting for us to take it all in.
For me, that wasn’t so easy. I had spent a good deal of time watching the news and at school, my favourite subject had always been Social Studies and when the teacher talked about the ‘Global Economy, I was interested, quite unlike most of my mates. They teased me, calling me ‘teacher’s little boy.’ Well--- they did that only once---- a quick whack on the way home cured that pretty quickly.
Luden continued. ‘The global connection was one of people--- rich people, those who controlled most of the earth’s resources and leaders of the big conglomerates. When you think about it, isn’t that the way it has always been? Well--- these individuals formalized their relationships, beyond the back corridors of political power. They secretly schemed and set about moving key players into positions of power. Some would say that the ‘Templars’ of old did something similar, but they lacked the technology to reach out and bring their plans into being.’
‘How did they get control of everything---I mean, did they do it everywhere?’ Mick asked. It was all getting too complicated for me, but I tried to stay tuned in to the discussion. Luden continued.
‘It didn’t happen overnight. They had been planning the Great Takeover for many years before anyone started noticing and by then it was too late. Most of the voices in opposition were painted as loony lefties or Green extremists. One thing for sure was that the environment played a part in the final days. To put it simply, the earth rebelled and by then, the wars had started. The USA tried to play the role of world police and the voice of reason. They convinced the Russians and Chinese to help knock out all the rogue states’ nuclear capabilities, including those of the Israelis and South Africa. Iran and North Korea virtually folded overnight once the worst of the environmental kickback started. Their people had suffered long enough.’
‘Didn’t China have something to say about all of this war going on around them? Mick asked. I hadn’t picked him for a Mr clever ass. I guess you can’t judge someone by their hippy looks.
‘Actually, China had imploded a good ten years before the wars started. It broke up into about twenty different mini-states, none of which was strong enough to influence world opinion or economy like they had in the early part of the century. When the environment finally fought to right the wrongs it had suffered for so long, China and India suffered more than anyone. As for Europe; for a while they started to rebound, but once they couldn’t feed themselves, they joined the plunge to hell.’ Luden grimaced as if he was reliving some of the memories. Mick wasn’t finished but I kept my questions to myself. I didn’t want to prove my naivety.
‘So was New Zealand like an arc, sort of damaged but not completely stuffed?’
‘You could say that. Certainly, the group calling themselves the ‘Reclaimers,’ set about gathering their resources and heading for New Zealand. Initially the Government of the day welcomed these friendly and ‘helpful’ newcomers. They had been trying for years to attract capital and here they were being offered it on a plate. It wasn’t long before the Reclaimers used their influence to take over. Hell--- they even won an election as the war raged around the world. Then the worm turned. Harsh new laws were introduced and people started to disappear in the night. Riots broke out in Auckland and Wellington. The ‘New Police,’ who later became the ‘Searchers,’ hit back viscously and New Zealand became a ‘police state,’ almost overnight. To cut a long story short--- some of us literally headed for the hills and there you have it. We are fighting to restore some sort of decency, but even we are now using methods we have only recently criticised the Reclaimers for.’
‘But what about that time rift or whatever you call it?’ I asked. Luden look at me strangely. Something about him was quite unnerving.
‘Well Tom, let’s just say that it came about after my people arrived here a hundred years ago.’
‘Oh no--- so you are claiming to be an alien then? I said incredulously. ‘You do look a bit funny though.’
Mick laughed--- the first I had heard in a while. ‘Come on kid--- how about we try to keep some normality, eh?’
‘Actually,’ Luden offered, ‘He’s not totally wrong.’