Sebastian Iturralde

If you follow my post you have seen passages from this author and I’m happy to say he is finally writing his novel and have been given a chance to share his progress and share with you more of his brilliant work. I will post his link if you would want more of his work and helping him with his growth as he continues to write.

The Infinite Ladder

A CROWD SURROUNDED THE ARENA, the screams made their words hard to make out.

The referee struggled to keep his eyes open, watching from a distance as the crowd jumped in excitement. Everyone was looking forward to the upcoming fight, while the referee only thought about keeping his posture upright —the lights reflecting on his suit, exclusively brought in from Italy for the occasion, made it shine. There was nothing to worry about; he kept his mind on other, unrelated, thoughts.

The referee was standing a few steps from the stage. Thousands of fans shouted, wearing their team colors, trying to get attention, in support of the combatants. There was a palpable energy to the enthusiasm and excitement of the crowd—but, of course, no less was to be expected. This was the final of the World Cup.

The fans couldn’t wait for the show to start, of course; they had paid to be present. So their passionate screams made the columns of the place vibrate, they were about to start a revolt. When the referee entered the arena the noise ended, although, after a few seconds, they went back to their euphoria.

The referee took the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen… today’s battle will determine the champion of the world,” he almost shouted in his deep voice. “From Australia, with five world championships and the current champion of the world, LT.”

LT took the stage, he raised his arms holding the champion’s belt—his movements beginning to lead the audience, little by little the crowd synchronized their screams, the letters L and T were repeated over and over again. LT walked slowly to the center of the stage—there was no doubt, he was the champion. The referee had introduced hundreds of participants, people who achieved fame for an instant but disappeared as quickly as they arrived. This boy was different.

“From Cuba, we have the contender, with a professional record of twenty-five wins and one loss. Hurricane,” the referee continued, raising his left hand.

Hurricane entered the stage, walking enthusiastically, but the atmosphere was different. The audience looked curiously at the contender. He was one of them—a few weeks ago no one knew him.

“Greet each other,” said the referee and took a step back.

LT nodded, standing silently. He looked calm—which gave him security. Hurricane had not been to the final of the world championship before, he did not know the procedure to follow. Hurricane had to respect the hierarchy and approach the champion, in the same way, that others had shown their respect for him in the past.

LT looked down, wanting to have his wristwatch within reach, then looked up to see Hurricane’s face. He seemed to be stuck in time, his eyes staring into space behind LT. The referee looked confused, turning the microphone in his right hand, concerned by the awkward silence of the arena.

“Okay,” LT said quietly, “I’ll try not to hurt you, too much.”

Hurricane hid the relief on his face. A step forward made them meet in the middle. This was the first victory, maybe a small one—but it was important to gain some ground before the battle began.

LT shook his hand tightly. “I’m going to clean this floor with you.”

“You’re going to try,” Hurricane corrected.

“I expect a fair fight,” the referee said as he stepped between the fighters.

Hurricane felt the cold of uncertainty take him completely.

The referee smiled; he enjoyed watching the participants before the show started, but they didn’t even notice him. Good luck guys, was what he meant, but it was better to let them fight their demons alone.

LT walked slowly. Hurricane was unpredictable. He had seen him participate, but having him, face to face was not the same as hearing…stories.

I just have to be aware of my actions and keep the focus on my goal, Hurricane thought, his gaze on the black cube at the side of the stage. You just have to look at him as an ordinary person. You’re ready for this—you’ve trained and you’ve trained—we’re going to win. Focus on your goal, a lucky streak, and who knows.

Hurricane kept walking, and LT turned to watch. He never thought he would meet such a great opponent, even if they existed—in most competitions, the contenders had been college kids and more academics than athletes—but seeing Hurricane with his sturdy body and strong arms… LT knew he wouldn’t have a normal fight—having to compare his abilities seemed unnecessary—but for now, LT had to put on a show for his audience.

Hurricane turned to see LT, who was preparing his equipment in front of the entrance of the other cube. Hurricane had always been at a disadvantage, struggling to move a little further ahead, dreaming of achieving the impossible. He knew his only option to be the best was to become the strongest, not only in body but also in mind.

I must concentrate, he thought. Everything points to him lowering his defenses due to his superiority, I must let him think he can win

The newcomer smiled again. If I can catch him off guard, the element of surprise will be in my favor. But would Hurricane be able to gain the advantage he needed, if he managed to pretend to be weaker? His talent was different from others. If he was only able to take a punch and pretend, he might have a chance to deliver a deadly blow.

Hurricane dropped his gown. One of the men from his team took it before it reached the floor, others verified that his gloves were properly adjusted, all sure that there were no problems with the equipment. They didn’t want to share their fears with Hurricane. They hoped to win. They would have to stay out of the cube. That was the most difficult part for the team members: they became other spectators helplessly watching the fight from a distance.

Hurricane froze when the man at the cube’s door called out to him. Their eyes crossed, a spark—no, a fire—began to burn inside. Hurricane was used to the feeling, just before the show started. Hurricane took a step calmly, all thoughts were forgotten, there was only one goal in his mind.

LT frowned at the ineptitude of one of his assistants. Are they paid to get in the way? They swirl around me like vultures waiting to see my fall, their clothes clean thanks to my contributions, it’s so difficult to distinguish between them. LT stopped, searching among his assistants. Trying to find the one who was wearing his glasses… but he couldn’t see him or where he could be.

No way. This can’t be. That man can’t have disappeared with my glasses. He must earn more than they cost, regardless, he would have to sell them.

LT looked up. “Alex!” he lost control.

The trusted aide approached. “Yes my lord?”

LT spun around, looking off into the distance. He kept raising his hands pretending to put on his glasses.

“My lord?” Alex asked again.

LT waited, standing, looking curiously. It only took a couple of seconds for Alex to turn and run.

After all, it was just servitude.

Hurricane had heard stories.

He had heard whispers of life before machines, long ago, when men had to work in the intense sun to grow their food. Times when automation did not take care of everything; when it was difficult to have a plate of food, and people did not live in virtual fantasies. Times before the robotic revolution. Those days, sadly, were almost forgotten.

Hurricane stared at the open door, his eyes focused on the light coming from inside the cube. He was silent for a moment, focusing on his sensations. The day was about to begin; a few more steps to enter the cube.

Eventually, Hurricane sighed, followed by the first step between him and his fate. He tried to walk calmly—although he wasn’t sure why. The spectators turned into a disorganized mess. Euphoric, shouting without order, it was as if no one was looking at him.

The inside of the cube was illuminated. Hurricane managed to see the images through the door, the monitors were turned on and synchronized so that one could enter that virtual world. The interior was empty; there was no need for tools, for Hurricane imagination was enough. To enter that world the players had to synchronize.

I can do this, Hurricane thought as he climbed the steps that would lead him into the cube. He breathed and flowed. He entered a room with five screens completely covering the walls and ceiling.

The noise ended that instant. Hurricane felt the door close, then began to move his hands. The monitors showed the system interface, but the options changed faster than he could read them. Only Hurricane knew what was happening, of course. Anyone looking at him would find his control extraordinary.

“Welcome, Hurricane,” said the voice of the system, the sweet, melodious voice of a lady. “How may I be of help?”

Her words broke the silence, and Hurricane felt the peace only the virtual world could provide. An invitation appeared on the screen, too, he saw its countdown begin.

“The game will start in five minutes,” said iB, the system that ran Hurricane’s orders. “Good luck and have fun.”

“Check the calibration of my equipment.” Hurricane said. “There can be no mistakes.” He smiled, shaking his arms and jumping to warm his muscles. He had a toned body, taut and attractive as if he had dedicated his life to sports.

LT yawned. By then he was more a machine than a man. A red hoodie covered his slim body—he must have weighed a hundred and fifty pounds. However, his robotic limbs add to his weight dramatically.

“Computer, start syncing,” LT said sternly. His movements were a little quicker to read, his robotic parts directly connected to the computer. When a player acts the most important aspect is the time for the system to receive the signal, LT had a slight advantage over his opponents.

“Synchronization complete,” the computer said.

LT waited with his eyes almost closed and his arms crossed, his feet firmly on the floor inside the cube. His expression was of boredom.

The referee smiled, walking forward. “Are you ready? We are seconds away from starting the count… ten, …” He let go of the microphone and turned.

The screen in front of the audience showed the countdown, the numbers steadily changed, leading to the screams of the crowd. Some people fell silent in anticipation, although most shouted the numbers when they appeared on the screen. The referee stopped for an instant, listening to the screams of the people, the sound of voices crashing against his body.

“Fight!” The words that everyone had heard at each start of the game, the order of the game.

Hurricane found himself in the middle of a burning city, he analyzed his surroundings and began to run. You must be alert…concentrate.

* * *

In one of the buildings of the city hosting the World Cup, a group of well-dressed men waited patiently.

If only they knew, Fortin thought. “Well, it’s time to start the attack.” He raised his arm for the servant to bring him another drink. “We’re doing the right thing—it would be a shame to waste our ability to know what is best for the people.”

Everyone in the room was attentive to his words. This was the real reason for having him as a leader—the reason why a group of civilians managed to form an army, the man that was going to give them back their place in the world, eradicating the machines. A revolutionary—the danger of any society—but the man they needed.

“The order has been given,” Beatrix said. “Our troops have begun to take the entrances to the city.” She spoke confidently, and the other members of the Eleven listened carefully. Tomorrow the city will be theirs, the Eleven will have the power to eliminate the robots and enforce their laws. The city needed a change, but the people didn’t know how to achieve it.

“Tomorrow we’ll have a new nation,” said Fortin, “and we’ll live free from the oppressive hand. We cannot continue to accept that our work has no value. In the new world, in Bocoy, there will be no machines to control us. We’ll make people work for what they deserve, no more bums in the world.”

“And how are we going to achieve that?” Damien asked.

“A thousand apologies,” said Fortin, “I had forgotten you were still here. When the time comes to consider your concerns we will, for now, we are at war.”

Damien frowned: The new city was going to need a person like him, and it was better to save this argument for another day. “Agreed,” Damien said. “Do you know the consequences of our actions? We are following you to a possible death sentence; the only way to stay alive is to win this war. You are an excellent leader—your voice is capable of leading crowds, you like to be heard. You speak, sharing your dreams and your lies, but tomorrow we are going to have to take the reins of this nation.”

Fortin raised an eyebrow. “Easy, Mr. de la Vela,” he said. “Your worries have no basis. Because I don’t need my voice to be heard. You, on the other hand, need it.” With that Fortin got up and pointed to a large map in front of them. The map of the city had markings in all the places where the troops and armaments were located. Large squares marked the anti-aircraft missiles.

The memory of transporting the missiles flashed through Damien’s mind. He lowered his gaze.

Fortin placed his hands on his hips. “Sincerely. You know, we have planned the revolution for years, Damien will know what to do when the time comes. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and live in the present.”

Beatrix interrupted the discussion. “All access to the city has been closed,” she assured, bringing her hand to the table. “My men are ready for the second stage.”

“Brilliant,” Fortin said. “Begin the second stage. The world must have been alerted to our attack, we must act before they can react.”

Beatrix stood by the Eleven’s table. “The order has been given.”

Dozens of trucks were ready at each access to the city. The waiting militia still didn’t know what was happening, until the orders arrived. In a few minutes, the trucks passed through the gateways, and the armed men, fighting for the revolution, saw the trucks go by and once again blocked the gates to the city.

Fortin turned, staring at the red dots entering the map and spreading throughout the city. Waiting for camly: Everything was planned to perfection. Armed men could make mistakes. For them, orders are decisive—it’s rare to see one disobey without fear in their eyes.

* * *

“What’s happening?” Hurricane said when he felt the Cube shake.

“Down, everyone down,” said an armed man as he entered the coliseum. The first gunshot showed the seriousness of his orders. “Nobody moves.”

“Easy, everything is going to be alright,” said the referee, grabbing the microphone. “It’s not necessary to use force, we’re unarmed.”

The referee stopped. Another armed man came up on stage and took the microphone. The men in green uniforms carrying guns looked like trained soldiers. They were ready for a battle; few people would be able to go through their training, and worse still reach their level of obedience.

“Don’t be afraid,” Melissa said as she took the microphone, “we’re going through a transition process.”

The frightened crowd stared at the woman in the middle of the stage.

Melissa sighed. “From today you and all the people who’ve entered the city will not be able to leave. We have a new leader, and a promise, we will live free from machines.”There was a tone of responsibility or guilt in Melissa’s voice.

“What are you talking about?” asked a woman in the crowd, with a challenging tone. “Are we your slaves, now?”

“At least we’ll be free from the machines,” Melissa said. “I know that there may be problems along the way. Our leader will know how to guide us, and thus we can create a better future. You are part of the change, but I wonder if you are willing to do your part.”

“This is insane,” a man said before being hit in the stomach with the butt of a rifle by one of the armed men. “We must flee,” another yelled and the crowd began to run.

Melissa shook her head. “They have nowhere to escape,” she whispered.

Jacinto looked concerned. “There are too many of them, lieutenant. I don’t think we can handle the crowd with our available men.”

Melissa smiled. “Nobody leaves the place.” She stopped, smiled again. “I think it’s time to communicate with the barracks.”

“How are you so calm?” Jacinto asked, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“You smile so much.”

“I enjoy my work.”

Hurricane was peeking through a small gap between the doors…I can’t get caught—and I must find a way out of here. Better not to imagine what will happen in a revolution. Hurricane opened the door to look outside. Luck or death, it’s now or never.

Melissa was in front of the cube in which the world champion was located. A brilliant mind for sure, but she couldn’t understand the need for such a man. She looked at him unimpressed. “Are you LT?”

LT looked at the militia outside the cube, and for an instant LT thought that this was just one of the missions he had in his game. But, eventually, LT shook his head. “Yes, it’s me. Don’t hurt me, please. My family will give you everything you ask for.”

Hurricane took the opportunity to sneak under the cube. It would be difficult to find him hiding there, under the platforms that held the cube, but even worse now that he was looking for a better hiding place. People piled up at the doors, screaming for help in despair. Despite his shock and surprise, Hurricane remained focused.

He found a way.

It was easy for him, after all his years of experience. Always drawn to running through obstacles, adrenaline began to rush through his veins. He pushed himself to run and escape, unseen. He felt a fire inside of him, a power he little understood. That force gave him clarity as he moved, he reached the back of the stage.

For an instant his mind made decisions a little faster, forcing his senses to stay alert. The space around him was clear, he calculated the steps required to reach a window. He pushed himself onto a desk, fell on top of a sideboard, and most importantly reached the edge of an open window. The sounds seemed distant as he hung from outside the window, freedom within his reach. He only needed to let go.

Staring at the crowd trying to escape, other militants caught Melissa’s attention.

“We can’t find the boy,” said one of her men, his voice low with the fear of failure. “We’ll continue to search and keep you informed.”

Melissa nodded. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding that boy. Go and don’t come back until you find him.”

The crowd seemed to calm down as the time passed. With patience, Melissa was able to wait in silence. The noise diminished. The distant sounds diminished like the echo of what was, and she felt it was time to maintain control.

Melissa turned. “It’s useless, the faster you accept reality, the better you will be.”

A man lamenting to himself. “This is not right—are you going to kill us if we don’t obey? I don’t want to be part of this revolution.”

Those were Fortin’s orders. Melissa couldn’t lose control of the situation—free people create problems when change is sought.

The noise had stopped, but anger began to erupt with the crowd held hostage. Being trapped raised old fears. They kept looking for another way out.

Slowly, Hurricane hung on until he decided to go back inside. If what they say is true, I will never be able to escape if they find me in the streets.

Melissa looked disapproving. Then, through the frustration of having a crowd who doesn’t understand her goals, she forced herself to smile. “I’m not here to take away your freedom. I just want you to be safe when the aircraft arrives.”

With that, she dropped the mic and walked away from the stage.

* * *

Fortin got restless with the arrival of the night. The more time that passes, the harder it is to wait. This was particularly true that night, as there was no response from the world’s government.

Fortin hoped that they would do the right thing and make the right choice. But, that prospect seemed unlikely; Fortin had seen the fire in the eyes of the world leaders. It was a shame that he had to go to this extreme—a war—to be heard, trying to make the world a better place.

How would the Prime Minister react? He is said to be a man with a firm hand in matters of disobedience. If this act of war managed to pique his interest, Prime Minister Jefferson could easily bomb the entire city.

Eventually, some members of the Eleven chose to retire. Fortin waited on his chair—with pain in his bones, his back complaining, his muscles exhausted—trying to decide the next step. Every day, he almost gave up. Every day, it became more difficult. One day, he would no longer be there to help them, all his life’s work without someone to continue it.

But not today. He could see the uncertainty in the eyes of his colleagues—they knew this decision would create conflict. They needed Fortin; they admired him. He had to keep waiting in his place.

And so he did. Once he got up, the pain began to dissipate slightly, and he was able to wait a little longer, a glass of liquor in hand to keep him company.

It was then that he heard a missile being fired. “What was that?” he asked. “Are we being attacked?”

The screen—where one could see the map of the city—changed. The image was now that of a flying missile, with the sunlight hiding on the horizon behind a curtain of orange clouds.

“Sooner or later this was going to happen,” Beatrix said. “They don’t understand our cause.”

“No,” Fortin said, feeling increasingly apprehensive. “This will change everything.” He turned to look at the members of the Eleven who were still in the room. He placed both of his hands against the table, pressing hard, trying to move it but it was impossible.

Some were missing from the table, Fortin found Damian’s place empty. His right-hand man, the person who was by his side from the beginning, always supported him. The other members looked tired but surprised.

“What is going to happen now?” Gaston asked. “We made a riot to get their attention, quite a show. They must be ready to negotiate, but attacking them…I don’t care what you say, I don’t want to be a part of this. I hope you think about the consequences.”

Gaston got up in a hurry. The rest of them had their eyes on the screen. There was nothing more important. Something was very wrong. Gaston kept walking, moving quickly towards the door.

But by the time he reached the door, the others watched the missile hit the plane and explode. Gaston did not manage to leave the room, but he continued as if he hadn’t heard the explosion.

The metal from the missile casing shattered. Only a slowly dissipating dark spot remained on the screen.

The army leaders, trying to find out what was happening, also watched the explosion on the screens of the world’s command center.

“Oh my God!” General Arturo said. “What has happened?”

“They were killed. They killed them all.”

Arthur turned. Everyone at the command center was alarmed. He stood still, staring at one of the screens, his eyes wide open in surprise.

“Retreat,” he demanded. “Order all planes to return to base. We cannot risk more lives to find out what is happening in that place. Someone put me through to the Prime Minister.”

“Sir,” Arthur said when the call was answered. “They have anti-aircraft missiles, there is no way to get close.”

Jefferson nodded.

“What kind of madman is behind all this?” Jefferson asked.

“We don’t know yet,” Arturo replied.

But we’re going to find out, thought Arturo. And how was he going to do it? They are locked in a city with two million people. There must be hundreds if not thousands of armed men.

The words of the last communication they’d received sounded in his head.

Better days are yet to come…

“But what do we do now?” Jefferson asked, scared. “What will happen to all those people? They must expect us to do something. The citizens of the world trust our ability to protect them, or do you think they’ll find another way to defend themselves? Why would someone do something like this? They don’t understand the damage they have caused.”

“They understand,” Arturo said. “Something like this was bound to happen.”

“But why?”

“Because it’s impossible to keep everyone happy, so they reached their limits.”

Jefferson went pale.

Oh my God, Jefferson thought. I cannot do this. I can barely keep the rest of the world in order—I can’t save all those people.

But what other alternative did he have?

Jefferson frowned. “Gather the generals, Arturo. I must speak to them immediately.”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”

“It’s best to keep this private for as long as possible,” Jefferson said. “The fewer people know about this mishap, the better.”

Arthur sighed. “I will do my best. But… it will not be easy.”

“Do what you can,” Jefferson said, “or we’ll have the press all over the place.”

Jefferson froze, and Arthur thought the surprise of all this might have been too much. Eventually, however, Jefferson closed the call.

Arturo sighed, looking around at his entire work team, cursing the man who created this problem.

Indeed, better days would come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: