Author's Note: Welcome to my prequel novel of Frank and Athena! The 'official' site is at frankandathena .com, which has an 'About' link with a little background on how the story came to be. But let me say here that the story fits the events of the Tomorrowland Movie as far as we know from the flashbacks. It also takes into account additional information given by Brad Bird in interviews, as well as background information from the graphic novel for the Plus Ultra history. It uses some background info from the Before Tomorrowland backstory novel, though doesn't specifically use the events of that story.
By the way, I should say that I think the story stands on its own, if you haven't seen the Tomorrowland movie. In fact, I'd be curious to get reviews from people who haven't seen the movie. - T.K. Brent
/ Prologue /
August, 1952 – John Francis Walker
Samuel Walker ran out of his house excitedly with a bang of the screen door and jumped in his old jalopy, hoping it would start right up this time. Mercifully, it fired up on the first crank and he set off toward town, a box sitting next to him on the seat. The car bounced crazily on the dirt road as usual, which often annoyed Sam, but on this day he hardly noticed. He felt like he could've flown into town, powered by his good will toward life.
He pulled up to the general store, killed the engine in a cloud of dust, and marched up the stairs and onto the porch. Several men were sitting on chairs outside the store, watching the evening sun setting over the horizon. Sam, standing ramrod straight, announced, "Gentlemen, John Francis Walker has been born."
The men jumped to their feet, slapping Sam on the back and giving him congratulations. Sam pulled out his box, opened it up and handed out cigars. After distributing them to all who asked (several more men came out of nearby stores, attracted by the commotion), he pulled one out for himself. Several matches appeared suddenly before him, and he lit his cigar with a bit of each fire from his friends and colleagues.
He took a deep puff and let it out, feeling his tension start to release. It had been a long night and day. "Eighteen hours. By God, that was an eighteen hour delivery, but Katey's fine. My gal worked hard to bring my boy into the world."
"What's he look like?" asked an older man in a farmer's overalls, his face deeply tanned and deeply lined.
"I tell you, Joe, he's gonna be a big one," Sam said, with a serious expression. "I can tell. He's a born farmer. He's got my granddad's look. And ol' Granddad could throw sacks o' wheat like no man. And he had a hell of a brain, too. Smart, that man. O' course, he had the good looks that all in his line have," he finished with a grin.
The other men guffawed at that, giving him a few more slaps on the back. An older woman walked up and smiled. "Congratulations, Sam! So sounds like Katey's mighty glad that one's out of the oven," she said.
"Thanks, Clara! Yep, she's about done in," Sam said. "She held John Francis for a couple of minutes, handed him back to the doc, and then was snoring about a half-minute later."
"So you've decided to stick with the farm, then?" she said. When Sam's expression turned wary, she quickly continued, "Aw, Sam, I'm sorry. This isn't the time, but it just sounded like you'd made a decision. Let's just drop it."
"Nah, it's okay," Sam said, relaxing. "Yeah, it's been a tough few years, but we're gonna stick it out. I just can't let the old farm die. The Walkers have farmed our land for 200 years, and I'll be damned if it'll go to the grave on my watch. Especially now that I'll have John Francis to pick up the slack in a few years."
"Well, it's true the Walkers have always had farming in their blood, and you were no exception," Clara said. "Your pa and ma were always so proud, you know, and no one worked harder than them. It's a shame they didn't live to see this day."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, Pa was a pistol. And Ma – well, you know she was never timid. If something needed fixin' around the farm, she sure didn't wait for a man to come around. There was a woman who didn't mind getting her hands dirty. Hell, she made that fancy grain lift out of old parts layin' around. And Pa made that corn harvester that he sold to International Harvester. That floated us for years."
Clara chuckled. "I knew both your ma and pa when they were kids, and they were both always messin' with stuff. Drove their parents crazy, so it only made sense they eventually eyed the other. Hey, did you know your pa almost went to engineering school?"
Sam's eyes grew wide in surprise. "Pa? School? You're kidding me."
"Swear to God," Clara said, holding her hand up. "He was accepted and everything. But he decided to skip it. He felt he owed it to your Granddad to stay with the farm and keep it going, since he was the only child. And hell, there are worse lives. I never heard him complain and he always seemed happy workin' the land."
"Yep, he was. He was a great farmer," Sam said, smiling with pride, followed by another thought, also with pride. And John Francis will be just like him.
September, 1951 - Athena
The pale hand and wrist lay on the white work table as Dr. Caroline Chaumers stared through large eyeglasses, each eye equipped with a long magnifying lens. At least, it appeared to be a wrist, except a two centimeter square was bloodlessly opened in the relatively small limb. Whoever the limb belonged to was hidden under a large sheet, though the owner didn't appear to be very large overall. In Dr. Chaumers's hands were small tools that she carefully manipulated within the hole in the arm, moving with very fine motions as she worked.
The room was a large laboratory, filled with many types of equipment. Someone looking from the vantage point of the future might find some of it startlingly primitive, while other devices would look startlingly advanced. Either way, the lab looked like a chaotic storm had hit, though a storm that left it with an odd organization as well. Things were strewn about as though they'd been recently used, but perhaps not returned where they belonged as often as they should.
Dr. Chaumers herself somewhat matched this dynamic. She had mid-length dark brown hair, pulled back into a sloppy utilitarian ponytail, designed more to stay out of the way than any aesthetic reasons. She was a small, lithe woman, in her mid-30s. Her most distinguishing feature were her bright blue-gray eyes, now focused intently on her work. Many of her colleagues often commented that her eyes almost seemed to generate a light of their own, though some of her more poetic admirers thought it might be her mind shining through.
But perhaps the most startling thing about the laboratory were the various body parts strewn about the room on work tables. Pieces of arms, hands, legs, heads, torsos, faces and other parts lay about. One might think they'd stumbled into the lair of a serial killer, but the sign on the door read, "Chaumers Audio-Animatronic and Robotics Laboratory" and underneath in smaller letters, "Authorized Personnel Only."
Across the room, the door quietly announced, "Dr. Jack Marshall requests entry."
Dr. Chaumers looked up from her work. "Enter," she called, removing her magnifying lenses.
The door slid up into the doorframe and a man walked in, looking about the lab with distaste. "Hello, Caroline. You know I hate visiting you at the lab, don't you? I assume that's why you asked me to personally deliver this here rather than T-Post or have an intern drop it off?"
Caroline smirked. When she spoke, it was with the Northern England accent of her birth home in Britain. "Perhaps," she said with a charming, playful smile. "But really, I wanted to show off my work a little bit. Jack, it's close. I mean, really close this time."
Jack plopped a package on a table. He replied in the rural Kansas accent of his origin home. "Well, it better be, because you aren't getting more of this anytime soon. You've cleaned us out and I don't know when we'll be able to make more in the specs you need it. Our budget is completely blown. You've used up quite a few favors to get all this." He bit his lip. "Now, I haven't asked too many questions, and God knows I would never presume to tell you how to engineer your devices, but… isn't this a little, um, overkill? I'm guessing you're using it for tendons? And with that new binding resin from Chemlab, you've made the skeletal structure?"
"This machine is my baby," Caroline said, patting the arm sticking out underneath the sheet. "I intend her to not only fulfill the mission of her design, but she will be capable of quite a bit more than that."
"Her?" Jack said, surprised. "Well, I guess it shouldn't be that surprising, but just that all of our past audio-animatronic units have been male."
"Don't I know it," Caroline said, rolling her eyes. "But yes, she will be female."
"But carbon nanotube fibers? They have a tensile strength fifty times stronger than steel and 1/10th the weight," Jack persisted, apparently not able to keep his curiosity under wraps any longer. "And I've heard rumors that some sort of treating was developed to make them contract like muscles using an electrical current. And did Dr. M'benga really give you a prototype battery unit that's also, let's say, a bit overkill?"
Caroline shrugged. "I can't talk too much about all that." But she allowed a small smile.
"And what about those carbon graphene sheets we've been sending over?" He suddenly looked down at the arm sticking out. "No! You didn't use that stuff for the skin, did you?"
When Caroline didn't answer, but still smiled, Jack walked over and looked closely at the arm. "That's amazingly life-like," he said, impressed. "Um, can I touch it?"
She nodded. Jack poked at the skin, and it depressed realistically. He ran his fingers across the smooth surface, and then pinched it. He poked, stroked and pinched his own skin for comparison, and then shook his head. "Damn perfect," he said, shaking his head admiringly. "And graphene skin? That will be unbelievably strong and damage resistant. But how are you going to gear up the production line? We barely have enough materials for her and maybe some spare parts, much less a squad of them."
"Who says there'll be a squad? She's going to be unique, at least for the foreseeable future." Caroline gave him a sly look. "Don't you want to see what she looks like? Her face?"
Jack smiled. "Nah, maybe another time." When Caroline's smile faded, he laughed. "Of course I do, you nut. Obviously you can't wait to do the big unveiling."
Caroline laughed in return. "You rat. All right, yes, I wanted to show someone, and your work on nanotubes and graphene has been crucial to making her what I dreamed of her being, so I wanted you to be one of the first. Not to get too corny, here."
"Well, doc, then by all means. Let 'er rip," Jack said, now visibly curious.
Caroline gripped the cover, looked Jack in the eye and paused for dramatic effect. With one last grin, she pulled it back with a flourish.
Jack stared down at the body, as a chill went down his spine. Caroline had dressed her in a simple hospital gown, which was somewhat unusual modesty for an android unit. But it felt appropriate, because the machine before him resembled nothing less than a perfectly convincing young girl, maybe 12 years old. She was a bit under five feet tall, with mid-length dark brown hair. Her face had a smattering of freckles across her nose, and her blue-gray eyes were open, staring lifelessly at the ceiling. He slowly looked up at Caroline, his jaw dropped.
"She's not… real?" He said in a soft voice, as though worried he would disturb the girl on the table. He looked back down and studied her again. "But why a young girl?"
Caroline suddenly looked serious. "You know her mission, right? It's to identify and recruit people for Plus Ultra. It occurred to me that who better to find recruits than a young girl, who will be able to talk to both kids and adults. A young, charming, and pretty girl will be typically seen as less threatening, more harmless and more trustworthy than an adult man, especially our current 'grinning idiot' Faustus AAs, useful as they are. But she'll be intelligent enough that no one will doubt that she knows what she's talking about."
Jack shook his head. "I don't know about all that, but you've obviously put a lot of thought into it. And I don't even pretend to understand all the cybernetic brain work you've been doing." He smiled. "But I see that she has your eyes."
Caroline smiled in return. "Well, of course she does. She's my daughter. Her name is Athena."
January, 1952 – The Rousceld Twins
Alphonse Mayer de Rousceld sat at his elaborate desk, a report in his hand. His back was to a large window that opened up to the city of Luxembourg, from a very high vantage point. In fact, his desk was on the top floor of one of the premier business towers. An observer looking at his desk might see a stack of corporate reports, each neatly labeled with a company name. A conclusion might be that this was a captain of industry, who oversaw many of the largest companies in the world.
Another observer, on the other hand, might see a different stack of reports, each labeled with the names of prominent politicians of every country. This other observer might conclude that this was a very well-connected politician, who had a finger in many, many areas of the world, with some of those countries startlingly unfriendly with each other, yet seemingly friendly with him.
Both of these observers would see part of the truth, but the real truth was that Alphonse Mayer de Rousceld was both and neither. What he was, in a nutshell, was a powerful man. His power came not only from his vast family fortune and resources, but also centuries of relationships carefully cultivated by himself and his ancestors. And just as carefully hidden from the masses. His family name was commonly known, the history of his family somewhat commonly known, but the actual reality of his family was obfuscated by a carefully manufactured history and an ongoing creation of new myths and legends, making the truth impossible to separate from the lies. Alphonse Mayer de Rousceld and his power lay hidden in plain sight.
In front of the desk sat a tall, lanky man, calmly waiting for Alphonse to finish reading the report's summary. Several minutes passed, and finally Alphonse raised his eyes from the report. He placed the report on his desk with deliberate slowness, and rose from his chair with the same tense movement. He stared out the window for several more minutes before he finally spoke.
"So, Eduardo. The Soviets are rattling their nuclear swords, and the Americans are rattling them back. The Americans are flush with money from the war and want to expand their influence throughout the world, while the Soviets are broke, and want to expand their territory to make up for it. Is that the gist of it?"
"Yes, sir," Eduardo said. "And other reports show tension in other parts of the world as well. One would think the world has had enough conflict after two world wars in half a century."
"My friend, I know you have reservations about my plan," Alphonse said. "But it's time. The world is led by children, with no parent to guide them. They've had six thousand years of recorded civilization to get it right and what do we have to show for it? A broken world on the verge of destroying itself. It's time to instill discipline upon the world, whether they want it or not. What child wants discipline? But it's for their own good, and my plan will be for the world's own good."
Eduardo Talamantes was quiet for several seconds, considering his response. His handsome Spanish features betrayed no feelings positive or negative on his friend's words, just mild curiosity. He asked carefully, "What about Plus Ultra?"
Alphonse was quiet for a number of his own seconds, considering his answer. "As you know, the Family had an opportunity to join Plus Ultra in the early stages, mostly to offer our financial resources, and possibly later on giving political assistance in delivering their vision to the world. But ultimately, we believed the founders were starry-eyed dreamers who were more interested in new gadgets than actually bringing the world into some kind of control.
"Of course, we know what happened after that. Two world wars, while Plus Ultra continued to play with their toys, particularly after they had their own little protected world they could run off to. They've demonstrated how successful their vision is."
"Will they interfere with your plan?" Eduardo asked.
"Undoubtedly," Alphonse said grimly. "But while their resources are significant, they are mostly squirreled away, unable to be used quickly. They have powerful friends here, but we have the advantage of being much more hidden and well-connected where it counts."
An intercom buzzed on the desk. Alphonse glanced at it, annoyed, then pressed the button. "Yes."
A female voice came over the intercom. "I apologize for the interruption, Mr. Rousceld, but it was an emergency. Please take line six."
Alphonse clicked a button on his phone, then raised the receiver to his ear. "Alphonse here," he said. He listened for several seconds, then grinned. "Excellent! I'll be there in a few minutes." He clicked another button. "Gloria, have Stephen bring my car to the front. I'll be down immediately."
Eduardo smiled. "Estelle?"
"Yes, indeed," Alphonse said. "It's time. A week early, but the doctor said everything looked fine. We'll speak more later."
Eduardo rose, then embraced Alphonse. "All the best to you and Estelle."
Alphonse smiled. "Thank you, my friend," he said, as he put on his suit jacket and walked toward the door, all in one smooth motion. He nodded at his secretary as he made his way to the elevator. He could barely contain his excitement as he reached the lobby, practically skipping through the entrance where his car was waiting, door open.
"Stephen, Central Hospital, please," Alphonse said, closing the door.
"Yes, sir!" Stephen answered snappily, with a grin.
All the way to the hospital Alphonse thought about the miracle that was about to occur, but at the same time, he couldn't quite get the world out of his mind. Perhaps it was the fact that he wanted a stable future for his children that was making him feel that now was the time to act, but regardless, he was more certain than ever.
Pulling up to the hospital, he quickly exited the car and found his way to the Labor and Delivery department, where he saw his sister and brother-in-law, along with their three children, sitting in the waiting room. "Ho, Victoria," he said as he walked in.
His sister ran over, kissing him on both cheeks. Not far behind was his brother-in-law who expressed his congratulations as he entered the room.
"Uncle Alphonse!" His eight-year-old niece Essie hugged him hard. "Isn't it so exciting? I can't wait to meet my new cousin!"
"Yes, sweetie, it is," Alphonse said, giving her a hug in return. "But you need to let your uncle sit, or he might collapse from nervousness." Everyone laughed as he took a seat.
The wait was difficult, not least because his thoughts kept returning to his conversation with Eduardo. It's a new day with new goals, he reflected. And new children to help me with them. No doubt his objectives would not be accomplished overnight – more likely years or even decades. But he felt everything in his life had prepared him for this moment.
Many hours later, a nurse entered the room. "Mr. Rousceld, your children have been born. Everyone is fine," she said with smile.
Alphonse jerked in his chair, as the word "children" hit home. "Wait, w-what?" he stammered.
"Yes! Twins! A boy and a girl," she said. "You may see them if you step this way."
Alphonse walked as though he were in a dream. Twins! he thought. Well, I suppose it's fortunate we decided on both a boy's name and a girl's name, just in case.
They came upon a large glass window, viewing a small nursery. No one in either room, adults, children, or infants, thought about what this represented. There were six infants in the room, newly conscious entities still oblivious of the vast universe surrounding them. At the moment they were only concerned with their subjective feelings of need, not realizing they embodied the most bizarrely amazing gifts in the universe: sentience, consciousness, intelligence and self-awareness. A philosopher might view these human abilities as the universe self-organizing its own matter to analyze itself. A religious person might say God was underneath driving it forward. Some might even hold both views. But whichever view held sway, infants were often called miracles and the word was apt.
As for Alphonse's own subjective reality, he looked at each infant trying to figure out which two were his, but finally two nurses came and each took an infant from the back. They brought the babies to the window, presenting them for their father.
Alphonse could not have felt more proud at that moment. My legacy, he thought. James Mayer de Rousceld and Hanna Charlotte de Rousceld. And if he was fortunate, his children may be the Rousceld heirs who lived in a new era of one single world, one single nation and one single leadership.
Author's Note: And we're off! Chapter reviews are always appreciated! Come and visit at the official story site www. frankandathena .com for discussions of the story and which will generally get updated first. - T.K.