3. Golden Age Guerrillas
Everyone had worked up a good appetite in the morning activities, and they laid into the feast with relish. Comments on gourmet viands from grill and oven blended with other small talk, and it was all a healthy release from the intensity of the collective spiritual experience induced by the ritual and the sighting of the lightship.
The man sitting next to Nasreen was obviously her romantic partner; his name was Kamran, and they looked to be in their late twenties. At a lull in the conversation he said, "I was really excited about visiting the home turf of the Kin of Aries, and I have to say that it's even better than I imagined. I'm just thrilled to be here."
"Me too!" said Nasreen. "Now I understand why the sodality has spread so far and wide in such a short time."
A fortyish man named Albrecht said, "Yes, we seem to be finding footholds in all the white parts of the world. Every time I go back to Deutschland there seem to be more of us to greet me."
At his side was his wife Sylvia, who said, "I've only been back to Russia once, but my friends gave me a long list of people who were getting together or at least asking questions about us."
Nasreen said, "I was talking with some of the kin from Cascadia, and I was so, um, incredulized at their way of life that they've been following for fifty years. They say it actually started here in Soul Haven, and there were a lot more people. I'd love to hear more about what it was like, so I was thinking of asking you, Diana, since you were one of the children. I mean, if you don't mind saying."
"Oh, I talk about it all the time," said Diana with a happy lilt. "The hard part is getting me to shut up about it." Others at the table laughed, and she proceeded: "It was like growing up in the Golden Age. My father and mother had amazing psychic powers, and their love filled me with divine energy. And I was surrounded by other adults who also loved me in that special family way. Lots of them did things for me that only moms and dads do in the outside world ~ it was really like having a whole bunch of fathers and mothers, and an even bigger tribe of uncles and aunts. Not to mention their kids, who were all like brothers and sisters to me, or at least close cousins."
"So it was like a hippie commune?" said Dunstan.
"I grew up here too," said Flash, "at least from the age of eight. Later I studied the hippie phenomenon, so I have a good idea of the contrast between their communes and our 'Earth Colony', as Marcus called it. The counterculture was collectively tapped into Spirit, just like we are, in their case via LSD. It awakened them to the horror of technologized life in a soulless society, so they wanted to get back to nature and recover their humanity."
"But why did their whole movement dissolve," asked Dunstan, "while yours is still alive and growing after half a century?"
Albrecht said, "They had the Geist and they had the Boden, but they lacked another vital ingredient."
"You're saying that they had a collective spirit which they tried to root into the earth, but they lacked... oh! Blut und Boden, blood and soil!"
"Exactly right," said Diana. "Most of the hippies were white, but they got sucked into the countergeist of promiscuous universal brotherhood. The genius of my father Marcus was that he meticulously selected individuals from the hippie stewpot and awakened them to their racial identity. And so our collective became a living organism, ~ not a generic geist like the hippies, but the Thule Geist: a manifestation of the White Spirit."
"Wow, it makes my head spin," said Dunstan. "I get the concept, but it raises so many other issues."
"Like what we've been talking about at home," said his daughter Gwendolyn.
"Right, and this is helping me to understand it lots better, but what comes to mind next is how different the group seems from all those white racist... er, racial groups that were active back then, like the Aryan Nations, the American Nazi Party, and the skinheads. Or maybe their image was distorted in the media."
"It was," said a heavily tattooed man named Spike, "but there were a lot of characters in that movement who lived up to the negative hype. I know, 'cuz I was one of 'em ~ until I met this wonderful lady here." This was the woman next to him, an attractively tatted redhead with a high-wired vibe similar to Spike's. He had just turned forty, and she was a few years younger.
Her name was Elise. She gave Spike a little hug and said, "I can't take all the credit. This brass-knuckled hardass skinhead had a heart of gold." Spike blushed as red as his own shaggy mane, almost a perfect match with his wife's.
At Elise's other hand was a third redhead, a boy of eight. At this moment he noticed a dog take off after a squirrel. He shouted, "Sirius, no!" and leaped from his seat in pursuit of the animals. As in a reaction of charged particles, Spike in turn yelled, "Roland, get back here! What kind of table manners is this supposed to be?" Roland was now halfway to the eucalyptus grove, a few steps behind his dog, and didn't heed his father's call.
Seated with Albrecht and Sylvia was their eleven-year-old daughter Aurora, a willowy little blonde girl. So it was surprising when she shouted in a resounding voice: "Hey, Sluggo!" Roland instantly halted and turned toward her. Her face and eyes went through a brief contortion, as if she were focusing intently on a thought. The next moment the truant came trotting back to the table; Sirius bounded out of the grove and heeled to him. As the boy resumed his seat, Elise tousled his hair and said, "Welcome back, Slugger."
"Sorry, Mom and Dad," he said contritely.
"What just happened?" asked Nasreen in amazement.
Aurora looked embarrassed and said, "Oh, nothing ~ I just reminded him that his, um, guardian angel was annoyed that he was acting like that."
"But you were here and he was way over there, and you didn't say anything."
"We have a kind of wireless connection, except without phones."
"You mean telepathy?" said Kamran.
"That's the usual word for it," said Diana. "And it highlights another big aspect of our Golden Age. When children grow up in a natural setting and don't get brain-damaged from exposure to TV and all the other media addictions, their innate psychic powers just naturally flower."
The conversation reverted to small talk for a few turns, then Dunstan said, "Cameron, I'm trying to place your and Nasreen's accent. I think it might be Scandinavian because you're both so Nordic-looking, but it's not like what I've heard in the past from Norwegians or Swedes."
The couple looked at each other and smiled, then Kamran said, " We're Tajik."
Dunstan was taken aback. "I'm embarrassed to say I've never heard of that particular European ethnicity. Are you from some little country like Lichtenstein?"
Amid some giggles from other people, Nasreen said, "We're from Tajikistan."
"It's in central Asia," said Kamran, "a former SSR. Our whole southern border is with Afghanistan."
"Tajikistan is a delightful little country," said Gavin, "though lots bigger than Lichtenstein. I had a great time there, and the climate is almost as nice as here."
Dunstan was still puzzled. He said to Gavin, "How did you and your family happen to get connected with Tajikistan?"
"We have a thriving Thule colony there. It's called Tajikartha, where Kamran and Nasreen live. But it's kind of a complicated story how it got started."
Flash said, "It came from our effort to preserve a vital part of the lifestyle established by Marcus, which is for young men to get initiated into mortal combat as they come of age. He led an expedition to the Amazon rainforest where he found an ideal stretch of turf on the border of Colombia and Brazil. For fifteen years our colonists engaged in a complex martial strategy maneuvering between the drug cartels, the communist revolutionaries, the government forces, and the Indians. Marcus was so adept at it that we became the dominant power in the midst of them."
Dunstan was dumbfounded, but Kamran said, "That's fascinating! I need to know more about that part of our history."
"We had to pull out after Marcus' death," said Flash, "and the Feds even shut us down right here in the Valley of the Moon. But in less than a decade the sodality had recouped enough in Cascadia that we felt ready to build another colony that could serve as a martial base."
"Tajikistan?" asked Dunstan.
"Not yet," said Spike ~ "that wasn't till after 9/11. In 1993 we found some like-minded folks in Croatia, and settled in for a great campaign in the Balkan War."
"I don't get it," said Dunstan. "You mean you were like mercenaries?"
"We did it for love, not money," said Spike. "And a few years ago the military establishment belatedly came up with a term that describes exactly what we were, and are: global guerrillas."
Dunstan looked shocked, and Gwendolyn made a plea with her eyes to Gavin. He in turn sent a non-verbal signal to Flash, who said, "Well, maybe we should save the war stories for later. They're not really appropriate for such a festive occasion."
There was a collective exhalation, and after a moment Nasreen said, "That reminds me, I'd also like to learn about the origin of the Kin of Aries. After all, that's what we're celebrating today ~ I mean, besides Gavin's birthday."
"All of a piece," said Diana with a smile, "or at least intermeshed."
"I'd say it began when you met Dad," said Gavin.
"Ah ~ that was a key event, for sure. Okay, should I talk about it? I promise to make it as brief as possible." There were nods and 'aye's all around, so she launched into the tale.