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The helicopters swooped lower with each pass, surveying the surface of the magical island piece by piece. Initially, each aerial mission was conducted with complete caution because of the apprehension about any potential danger. However, as the results from a multitude of tests streamed in, the atmosphere gradually began to shift from one of trepidation to that of scientific curiosity. A wild assortment of questions started to cross the collective thoughts of everyone who was witnessing the extraordinary event unfold: What was this strange land formation that had exploded into being in such a monstrous fashion? How can ideas be formed about something of which nothing is known? Why was the primal sensation always one of fear?

The entire exploration was led by the Peace Force: a globally relevant, corporate-backed, technologically replete, mercenary force employed by political, religious, and business entities, yet beholden to the United Nations through the dictates of international law. The origins of the Peace Force emerged from the pragmatic conclusion and the sagacious consensus that it had become economically feasible and politically viable to establish an organization in order to manage worldwide concerns.

Each examination completed from above brought revealing information about the land mass. Despite this extensive compilation of data, though, no one was able to construct a logical theory or scientific premise that could begin to explain what had happened. Every expert was baffled: what forces of nature could account for the spasmodic yet fertile eruption? Stranger still was the fact that none of the highly-sensitive technological devices that were spread strategically throughout the world had even registered a whimper of tectonic energy not to mention the unrestrained effluence of such a colossal tangible force. The simultaneously visceral and intellectual quandary remained: How could this island have formed without a vestige of scientific impact?

Even while faced with a myriad of unanswered questions, perhaps the most galling and ironic aspect of the research effort was that some of the visual evidence produced rudimentary suppositions that could be classified as normal in content but not in origin or generation. In essence, it appeared that many identifiable forms of vegetation were growing spontaneously and at a rapid pace that defied reason. Yet as the total energy of the scientific community grappled with the question of "How", in the larger context of those who were observing around the world, the reaction was acute mesmerism.

The huge procession towards the island was a sight to behold. At the front was the Peace Force which had total control over every aspect of the approach. However, hovering anxiously and aggressively in the background was an immense phalanx of business organizations which wanted desperately to extend its commercial tentacles around any opportunity that was available. According to global convention as administered by the Peace Force, though, all corporate entities had to wait until "a realistic and internationally balanced environment for the intervention of business" had been established. Next in line, and actually infiltrating the entire operation using both certified credentials and corrupt preferential channels, was the media, in scope, an actual army itself. The sheer significance of the event drew scads of reporters who persistently asserted their involvement through an ubiquitous presence.

Suddenly, this incredible story of spontaneous generation had become an international focal point at all levels of global society. Ty could not believe that mere hours after he had seen the curious news bulletin on CCN that he was flying to the island. Professionally, of course, his occupation was clearly defined as media, but Ty did not consider his work in the same vein as the coverage done by the gigantic news agencies. He held himself to what he considered to be a higher standard, positioning himself adroitly and acknowledging his connection with the other journalists, but eschewing the hostile questioning and intrusive tactics of his fellow colleagues. Privately, he believed that his magazine followed an unconventional political agenda and strove for a style of writing that expressed avant-garde artistic concepts. Even though he was obligated to report the story, then, he hoped that he could find a fresh vantage point from which to assess the situation and also from which, at a personal level, he would be able to contemplate some of the issues that constantly flowed through his mind.

This event was particularly fascinating for Ty because, from the outset, it was a total mystery: an occurrence that seemed to exist beyond the parameters of rationality. Ty was always of two minds in situations that seemed to obfuscate conventional thought. From one perspective, he needed to try to understand what he could using basic reasoning. On the other hand, however, Ty was a searcher and adventurer at heart, and he secretly longed to immerse himself in the limitless spirituality of what was happening.

The Peace Force had grouped together a number of aircraft carriers a safe distance away from the island in order to handle the influx of its own personnel as well as any visitors, including the media. Ty and the rest of the journalists had seen part of the land mass from above as they flew in. After they had arrived, all of the reporters were shuttled by helicopter to one particular ship, and, upon landing there, they were herded into a conference room. A spokesperson for the Peace Force was scheduled to make a statement and field some questions in a few minutes. However, as they waited, Ty and the other reporters spoke excitedly, but somewhat incoherently, in reaction to what they had just experienced.

"Did you see the size of that thing?"

"No, I can't believe it!"

"I wonder if anyone really knows what the hell is going on?"

Suddenly, Ty was greeted by a friend.

"Hey, Ty, how's it going?"

"Steve, how are you? Itís been a while, hasnít it?" replied Ty, still a bit unsteady in the wake of all the commotion. "I guess we've picked an incredible assignment this time, wouldnít you say?" he asked.

"Thatís for sure!" answered Steve. "I still can't get over the size of it! How big do you think it is?" he queried.

"I have no idea, but it looks huge! And whatís just as amazing is the fact that there are already trees and bushes after only several days," gasped Ty.

"Look Ty, weíre seasoned reporters who have been to many extraordinary places, but honestly, I've never seen anything this . . . this, how should I describe it? I canít seem to find the right words!"

"The whole thing has an otherworldly quality to it that I canít relate to, and it kind of gives me the chills. It's like we're encountering something that is clearly outside the limits of our ability to understand. O.K., so now I'm babbling."

"But wasn't that something, zooming in on helicopters and seeing a fully green and growing and living . . . a complete ecosystem generating itself right before our eyes . . . and all the Peace Force ships and aircraft and personnel surrounding the whole area . . . and just the size of the thing, I mean how do you suddenly get a huge land mass in the middle of the Pacific?!" exclaimed Steve nearly hyperventilating from the fervor of his own amazement.

"I know, I know, Steve, this is the most stunning thing I've ever witnessed, and we don't even know yet what weíre seeing! Maybe these jokers on the Peace Force will give us some straight answers, but you know how they usually are with information," sighed Ty.

"Right, information is a commodity to be released according to strict economic and political guidelines," Steve remarked sarcastically.

"Well, they've got to tell us something," Ty responded. "I mean you can't have a couple hundred journalists from all around the world just muzzled and blindfolded about something this significant. Besides, Iím guessing that they wouldn't have allowed us within this restricted area unless theyíre prepared to reveal something."

"But, come to think of it, that reminds me of an unofficial call I received from a PR director for the Peace Force before I got here. She was speaking confidentially, of course, but she told me that they didn't know as much as they wished they did. Which makes me wonder if maybe the situation is beyond them as well. I doubt if theyíll announce anything more than some statement saying that the whole thing is Ďunder observationí or some mumbo-jumbo comment like that. Perhaps they're allowing us to cover the story just so they can keep us all corralled together for the time being and influence the contents of whatís reported," smirked Ty.

"Wow, are you jaded!" Steve stated.

"Come on, Steve. You and I both know that the Peace Force exists under the political auspices of the UN. But, let's face it, theyíre mercenaries who often are hired out by global conglomerates, and, in that way, they're beholden to their employer who probably exerts a fair amount of influence in terms of what information is revealed or restricted. At one level, they're just like us; they've got to earn a paycheck, too," lamented Ty.

"Hey, I'm disappointed in you, my friend," Steve laughed as he patted Ty on the back. "Here I was giving you a modicum of respect and thinking that you had achieved some level of independence and freedom in your life by starting and running your own publication, you know, free from the 'master-slave dialect' that we all get caught by, but now you're telling me that you're doing it for the paycheck. Whew! What's going on up there in Tokyo, anyway?" asked Steve.

"Have we got time now for my whole sob story?" Ty reacted.

"Yes, we do!" winked Steve. "The press conference won't be starting for another few minutes anyway. Go ahead, pal, let's drop the professional facade for a while and get reacquainted. Itís too bad, but I almost never get to Japan anymore, and I doubt we'll have any time to chat once this story gets out."

"So, my long lost friend, what's happening in your life?" Steve inquired. "I thought you had it made; I mean, being in print on a weekly basis and having full editorial control over the contents is about as close as anyone comes to freedom of expression in this era or any other for that matter," said Steve.

"Youíre right, I have to count my blessings, but . . . well, you know," started Ty, realizing that it was their shared past that made it possible to speak freely with Steve.

They had both started their careers in Tokyo a number of years before, but Steve had been hired by a prestigious international publication which had assigned him to work in the United States. Ty, of course, had stayed on to establish his own magazine, and, although they kept in touch periodically, the busy pace of their professional lives as well as the geographical separation had left some gaps in their communication.

"O.K., O.K.," continued Ty after a couple moments of silent reflection, "I know I should be more grateful for my good fortune. And, to be honest, my situation isn't so bad. But, do you remember how we were so energized and hungry for an opportunity years ago? Now it's different. I can't say if it's for the better or worse, although, at the beginning, neither of us really had much money and we were desperate for work. I guess everyone's lives develop in stages, and this period now is just one of the many phases that I'll go through. But I just don't feel the same vigor that I used to," said Ty despondently.

"Do you think it's just part of getting older and being worn out by the whole system? The stuff that made our parents and older people seem so boring and lifeless to us when we were young?" pondered Steve.

"Maybe," responded Ty. "But I think it's more than that."

"What? Are you still trying to fathom the meaning of life?" Steve queried with some outward skepticism.

"No. It isn't that either," continued Ty. "I pretty much concluded a few years ago that there wasn't any inherent meaning in life. And therefore, philosophical quests are essentially useless, except for the accumulation of temporal knowledge, or for reaching a mental plateau from where certain perspectives on life can be reevaluated. Besides, that process seems to be an intrinsic part of life on occasion anyway. But no, I'm talking about something emotional," concluded Ty.

"Wait a second, now just wait a second, my friend. Are you in love or something stupid like that?" Steve joked.

"No, no, no, not that," smiled Ty. "Although there are plenty of women who I see every day that I wouldn't mind meeting more . . . more . . . uh, well, just more," chuckled Ty.

"No, I'm talking about communication, and, in particular, exchanges at an emotional level. The way people just can't seem to talk with each other anymore. I don't know, maybe it's just a problem I'm experiencing. But, Iím finding that with a lot of the people who I've spent significant amounts of time with over the years, for example, members of my family, women whom I've known, or just friends from the past, that it seems like my ability to communicate with them has just dropped off. I don't just mean, for instance, the way we are, in that, we hung out in Tokyo for a lot of years but now you're back in the States and our schedules prevent us from corresponding on a regular basis. Iím referring to the contents of the discussions, and, specifically, the way people seem to have erected barriers around themselves over the course of time, perhaps in response to their life experiences. Maybe it's my mistake or misguided expectations, but when I talk to someone who I've had meaningful contact with over a considerable period of time, even if it was in the past, I think that I should be able communicate with them more easily than Iíve been able to," despaired Ty.

"What exactly do you think is the problem?" asked Steve.

"I guess I'm not speaking very clearly now," responded Ty. "What I mean is that, it's not any kind of difficulty with language, rather, there seems to be an emotional barrier which impedes communication. Recently, more often than not, the people who I thought I was close to because of our shared experiences, when I see them now, I feel repelled, or, to some degree, that they aren't willing to open up to me as much as they had in the past. Maybe time has changed them and altered their outlooks to the extent that we no longer have any common ground; or, possibly, my notion that we should be able to pick up right where we left off is a bit facile. However, I can't seem to understand the atmosphere of . . . how can I describe it . . . the sense that they don't want to share things with me anymore or that my presence is some kind of an intrusion into their lives. Are you able to relate to any of this? Or have you had any of these types of experiences lately?" asked Ty.

"I hear you," replied Steve. "I don't know if I've got a complete read on what you're saying, but it sounds like youíre encountering some negativity. This might be a far-flung association, but it brings to mind something that I learned many years ago: the old notion that 'everybody gets jaded'."

"A friend of my father's always used to say that to me whenever he visited the family. He was a really good guy from Brooklyn who moved out to LA, but, never lost his sense of cynicism that I guess he developed naturally growing up in New York. We'd always talk about various subjects, and, invariably, when it looked like the conclusion we were reaching, or, at least, the tenor of the conversation was headed in a negative direction, he'd throw that phrase out as a line."

"But, even though we kidded each other and often repeated that same expression, I usually felt that there was some truth to it. Actually, he had some cause to be bitter after he got divorced and was in and out of work for several years thereafter. Yet, he was never a meanspirited guy, not in the least. It was simply a matter of him being the kind of person who speaks realistically, and, at times, bluntly."

"He always emphasized the importance of family and friends and of being kind in general. But, he also believed that, inevitably, the world would take its toll on everyone, one way or another. It was that line, though, about getting jaded that stuck with me; not only as an all-purpose quip, but also as a friendly reminder that life isn't easy and that sometimes it can have a negative effect."

"I don't know if that's what you're talking about, but I try to keep it in mind whenever I can. That perspective allows me to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who I care for when theyíre having trouble and don't seem to value our relationship as much as I think they should," concluded Steve. "Did any of that hit the mark?"

"Yes, that must be it," said Ty. "But, despite the problems that we all have, and, even as forgiving and understanding as I'd like to be to people who I know are experiencing a bad time, I still cling to this strange hope that I can forge a personal connection with the people who I care about which would enable us to cope with all of the lousy stuff. In other words, I want a way to put aside what is negative and focus on that which is harmonious and communal. Iím sure that all sounds really scattered and idealistic, but I desperately need to believe that thereís a way to relate which is unobstructed by defensive mechanisms and allows the people involved to feel secure regardless of their vulnerability," Ty stated.

Their discussion had been a brief respite from the chaos that surrounded them. Still, in the crowded room, the throng of reporters continued to converse at an uproarious level. None of them appeared able to regain their composure. Instead, they moved about the room, bumping into one another and becoming more agitated with each passing minute.

"Did they say when they are going to start this thing, or are we going to have to wait forever," complained Steve.

But no sooner had he uttered his dissatisfaction when someone entered the room and stepped to the podium.

"Ladies and Gentleman, my name is Harvey Jackson, and I'm the International PR Director for the Peace Force. I'd like to make a brief statement, and then I'll open up these proceedings for a limited time for some questions."

As he stood and spoke before the group of reporters, the Peace Force representative appeared to epitomize the characteristics of all the other members of that group: he displayed a sophisticated and heady mixture of military efficiency and decorum as well as the business acumen and competitive aura of a corporate official. Each public appearance was vital to the Peace Force, and it worked meticulously on maintaining an infallible international reputation. These circumstances necessitated a comprehensive sensitivity towards every global issue; a stance that was considered as crucial as the magnitude of their arsenal. It was critical that the Peace Force could be seen as an effective catalyst towards the successful achievement of peace. However, the realization of this goal was always threatened by the historical precedent that "Peace" had never been viewed as a neutral concept -humans invariably fought about the parameters of peace instead of attaining the reality.

Thus, the Peace Force's ultimate objective was always the creation of an environment in which there was no military activity. The central difficulty was not so much achieving the absence of war because, based on international law, the Peace Force possessed the most advanced military technology available. The main problem, in fact, was presenting itself as a nonpartisan organization. The most important aspect in this endeavor was the declaration of an objective that was beyond reproach in relation to every other political or military group in the world.

Of course, the UN's authorization added immeasurable credibility to each operation that was undertaken. However, depending on the particulars of a given situation, the Peace Force had to carefully and completely to explain its objective: that was why the reporters had been ushered in, and that was why the conference would be held.

"Several days ago, a land mass of considerable size formed suddenly and violently. In reaction to this event, the Peace Force has declared a state of red alert. In addition, the Peace Force is conducting two activities that have no expected timetable for completion."

"First, establish and enforce an exclusionary zone around the island in order to ensure the safety of anyone in the vicinity. Given the comparatively remote location of this incident, no sovereign states or populated areas are considered at risk. However, because of the abrupt and undetermined origin of this event, all nations in the region have been alerted and will be assisted to the full extent of the Peace Force's capabilities."

"Second, the Peace Force has deployed members of all of its divisions, including its scientific and tactical units, in order to determine the causes of both the emergence of the land and the subsequent biological generation. At the moment, there are no results which would allow us to make a statement concerning the source of these happenings."

"All information and its corresponding documentation, as per order of the International Information Act of the UN Charter, will be released, and must be released, when certainty of cause is resolved. Until that time, the Peace Force will engage only in the partial dissemination of information in order to update the international community of its activities. This announcement has been sponsored by the United Corporate Countries and is recognized as a wholly legal and representative pronouncement of the UN. I will open up the floor to questions."

"What are your preliminary findings on the cause of this event?" shouted out one reporter.

"We have no data to release now."

"Are you saying that there is no scientific explanation for any this?"

"I can neither say that there is nor that there is not a scientific explanation, but, at this point, there are no definitive logical conclusions of any merit."

"Are you saying that this is some kind of scientific mystery?"

"I can't qualify this event as a 'mystery', however, I can say that there is no specific scientific data to base any conclusions on at this stage."

"Is the Peace Force now conducting scientific tests?"

"We are currently proceeding with a wide range of exploratory measures including several within the scientific realm."

"Specifically, what kind of tests are you doing?"

"I cannot release the nature and content of these examinations at the moment, but I will say that the tests are related to virtually every sphere of human knowledge."

"What are the results of these tests?"

"As of yet, there are no conclusive results."

"What can you tell us about the situation on the island?"

"At present, on the land formation, there is an extensive range of biological growth which is progressing at a very rapid pace."

"Is the pace of this growth unusually rapid?"

"I cannot employ the term 'usually rapid', but I will specify that the biological movement is faster than anything on record."

"Does the Peace Force view this situation as being dangerous?"

"The Peace Force cannot describe the situation as being 'dangerous' or 'safe', but we are on red alert given the violent nature of the previous events and the unknown status of the immediate future. In addition, we believe that the area is not suitable for intervention by untrained or unsupervised persons."

"Will we get to view the island more closely?"

"Yes, after this conference is concluded, the members of the media who express an interest in examining the island will be transported from this vessel for an aerial view of various sections."

"Anything else? If there are no more questions I will ask you to please remain here until we are able to escort you on an authorized tour. Thank you for your cooperation."

The PR director stepped down from the podium, and the conference was concluded.

"Talk about not receiving any information," sighed Steve. "They cram us all into this small room, make a statement, and then answer questions basically telling us nothing. They didnít even confirm that they don't know anything. I hope, at least, they give us a closer look at the island," said Steve with obvious exasperation.

"You know how the Peace Force always walks a fine line, though, donít you?" responded Ty. "They have to continually cover their backs legally, but they also have to come across as completely righteous because of their affiliation with the UN. Maybe they don't know anything, but they can't say that because of their position of prominence and because it would generate alarm all over the place. So, instead, they have to posture and give us this official but obscure discourse. Besides, why should the Peace Force be able to explain what might be some kind of miraculous happening?" countered Ty.

"Oh, thatís right, I forgot that you're not only a journalist and writer but also a tripped-out dude," joked Steve. "Anyway, I wonder if the media will be able to record some of the images of the island during the tour?" he pondered.

"I doubt it," replied Ty. "You know how antsy they are about visual content rights, and they can restrict any media activity through global security regulations."

"I guess we both just have negative attitudes when it comes to the Peace Force and their apparent omnipotent status. And yet, despite that clout, they constantly appear to be manipulated by the financial offerings of a lot of gigantic multinational corporations," said Steve critically.

"Sure, we can make disparaging remarks if we want, but, at least, it's out in the open to a certain extent," Ty retorted. "Historically, there has always been a mutually beneficial connection between governments and corporations. However, now the system is constructed in such a way with the involvement of the UN that higher levels of disclosure are required. I'm not saying that the UN isnít susceptible to corruption, but the existence of a protocol for the application of international law and the codification of its enforcement constitutes a structure that is the closest weíve come to global accountability."

"Wow. They've really got you mesmerized, donít they?" remarked Steve. "In any case, I'll feel a lot better after they let us out of this place. Itís stifling in here," he moaned.

Ty grimaced in response because he too felt a bit claustrophobic in the enclosed space.

As soon as the press conference had finished, the room was again buzzing with the voices of the assembled media. The only noise louder than the horde of reporters was the intermittent arrival and departure of aircraft from up on the deck. Then, after about fifteen minutes had passed, more Peace Force officials entered the room and began to separate the media into groups of about twenty people. From there, the journalists were led outside and subsequently packed into a collection of helicopters.

As the fleet of helicopters raced off in formation, it looked like a military assault was being made on the island. The reporters had been told that they would not fly directly over the center of the land because it was still considered unsafe. Instead, the choppers took a circuitous route along the coastline. Since no Peace Force representative would confirm any specifics about any topic, the journalists were left to gape at the huge chunk of terra firma.

The view from above revealed what appeared to be a fairly ordinary terrain: there were rocky coasts and sandy beaches; ample vegetation including trees and a variety of plants; and the interior, even when seen from a considerable distance, featured hilly almost mountainous areas. However, as the reporters got a first-hand look, none of them could restrain their amazement given the astonishing fact that all of it had occurred in such a short duration.

Around the world, people would rely on the media for information about the incredible happening. But, because the Peace Force prohibited independent coverage of the event, the major news agencies had only been able to make sketchy reports up until that time. And yet, even as the journalists received their first glimpse of the island, it was clear that the Peace Force was in complete control of the scope and contents of any dissemination.

The result was that all news organizations of any significance would file their reports based on essentially duplicate information. Although these stories would not be censored, the overall restriction imposed on the discovery and release of information effectively rendered investigative reporting useless. In the end, people across the globe were force to wait for a report which would convey the main points of the incident, but not really uncover anything new.

In terms of content, each report was virtually the same: the information that the Peace Force had released was given; members of the Peace Force who were fluent in a particular language and authorized to make a statement - in fact, most members were qualified to make public comments since media interaction skills were taught as part of standard training - were interviewed; and each reporter gave a personal description of what he or she had seen from the helicopters during the aerial tour.

The whole concept of competitive reporting, then, had been, in essence, eliminated through the control exerted by the Peace Force. Although these artificial parameters did not compromise the accuracy of information, at times, stories lacked depth. The entire set-up worked to tame the urge in each reporter to push for more extensive information. In the final analysis, this was one of the conditions that the international community accepted as part of having the Peace Force exist through UN sanction: news was affected to the extent that its release was tantamount to funneling information through a variety of outlets.


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