In the Earth month of March in the Earth year of 2152, the Einstein Institute of Vienna made one of the greatest discoveries of cosmic history. The long-sought Pulse of Life had been traced through Professor N'Gula's new science of quarkography, and located in the earth's permafrost of Antarctica. The find would have galactic consequences, and required extraordinarily careful handling.
"Ministers, Ministers," shouted the Convenor in a vain attempt at silencing the roars from the disseminator console. From every corner of the planet flew shocked questions and horrified exclamations, settling in a noisy flock in the secure D-Room of the Planetary Council. For only the second time in ten years, the Convenor selected the over-ride option and continued in an even tone.
"The Pulse of Life has been found; that fact cannot be changed. Let us not bog down in pointless debate. Our challenge now - " the Convenor paused, searched for the words she wanted, and resumed in a more fevered tone, "No; more precisely, our life-and-death struggle now is to isolate and contain the Pulse before our cosmic neighbours become aware of the discovery."
Again the disseminator hummed with a symphony of shouts, which the Convenor muted while she lightly touched her left ear in response to the muffled hum only she could hear. A soft voice spoke from her chair's head-rest. "Requested party standing by," it purred. She nodded again, over-rode for only the third time in ten years, and resumed her speech.
"As you know, Ministers, the Pulse is the galactic spore , the God-seed if you will, that has brought life to every corner of our universe. As you also know, every advanced race within Knowledge has searched it for centuries. It is both our blessing and our curse that it has been found here; on our planet.
"Since we must immediately assign an infallible team to quickly move the Pulse to sterile holding in Quadrant Two -" and here the Convenor uncharacteristically paused again before resuming in a very measured pace, "While also being aware of - and prepared for - concentrated action from our enemies, there are only three possible Council choices." She activated the historicals of operatives Ali Shansee and Franklin Delaney while spinning her chair to look out on the calm waters of Lake Geneva.
She crooked a forefinger to activate the tel-image of the requested party, and was unable to quell her small smile at the sight of the long-haired, naked apparition which materialized before her.
"We had a difficult time locating you, Gunner Shield," she said kindly. As always, he corrected her. "It's Gunnar he said, "In Old Norse. With an A, as in awe. And Skjold, pronounced Shold. "
As always, she repeated her greeting, carefully pronouncing his name properly.
"As you know, I have my ways of avoiding even the council's eye and grasp, Finalta," he answered. His pale blue eyes glinted with an antique hint of mischief so rare among Council operatives. Not for the first time, Finalta marvelled that this northern maverick had led two stunning human campaigns, including the impossible defeat of the Zirkanians in the Solar Wars of thirty years ago, when he had been a young Pre. He was a Mid now, she knew: somewhere between fifty and eighty earth years of age, but with his corn-blonde hair and warrior body, Gunner could still pass for the Pre of that legendary victory.
"We've found the Pulse of Life," she said without preamble, and saw him take a deep breath and momentarily glance elsewhere. "And it must be contained imm-"
Gunnar's interruption was terse. "They know, of course," he said in a voice as deep and calm as a fjord.
"No, no, no," the Convenor argued, "We're holding a council only now. It's Level Ten secure." She noted on the disseminator that the Ali Shansee historical was coming to an end, and she spun quickly through the rest of her briefing to the naked northerner.
"Will you stand as a volunteer? The vote is imminent," she asked finally. She saw him turn slowly to watch three of his young children playing Haleutian Hoppers under an immense pine tree. On his muscled back, she noted the distinct parallel scars of the trizon that had almost taken his life. In the distance, the Convenor could see his Pantherian wife Amut'a by the entrance to their earthen home. As Finalta reflected on their recklessness in spawning their children in the old way, there was only the slightest tickle below her abdomen. She allowed herself a quick favourite dream, of retiring to her own home on the balmy coast of the Great Lakes in Mereeka. His voice brought her back.
"I will," he said simply.
"Good. I'll play your historical to the council, and be back in a few minutes with the vote results," said Finalta, spinning her chair as the Delaney profile wound down. "If you are chosen - and I'm sure you will be," she said, her smile threatening to widen, "You will wear clothing, of course." With a crook of her finger, she disconnected.
Unheard, Gunnar muttered, "They know," and turned to walk slowly to his family home.