THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

ChildIsle

The vehicle Cedric had was not the open contraption they had ridden in the first day. It was much more like the one Dora and Louise had arrived in with four real seats. Anthony sat in front with Cedric, Jasmine sat in back with Lester who had his arm around her.

"I've never had a chauffeur before," Jasmine said.

"That's what I am today," Cedric said over his shoulder.

There were only three other buildings along the long narrow slightly winding road all similar to the Hostel in structure, though not as long.

"Stone is the main building material," Cedric said. "It's about the only truly abundant building material. Our scientists have created an artificial material similar to wood made from glue and seaweed, but it's very expensive and mostly used decoratively. You'll see some when we get to the city," Cedric said.

More and more buildings showed up as they traveled and they became much closer together and the shapes and sizes were much more varied. There was also more green on the ground like grass, but Cedric assured them it was not grass, but a kind of moss.

The road they had been following suddenly became very straight, and there were many other roads crossing it. All the roads were now lined with buildings and most of them had signs on them identifying them as various businesses.

"You will notice there are no public buildings," Cedric said. "There are no Controller halls, or Agent stations."

"And no temples or churches," Jasmine said.

"What about schools, hospitals and fire stations?" Anthony asked.

"There are lots of schools," Cedric said, "but not like the schools anywhere else. Most schools specialize in certain subjects and anyone can take those subjects, and they're all run a little differently, so there is lots of choice."

There are also many different kinds of medical companies, some similar to hospitals. Fire protection is pretty much provided by private protection companies.

"Are they free?" Lester asked.

"Oh no! Nothing is free on ChildIsle," Cedric said, giving the impression the very idea was revolting.

"Are there any good schools of history?" Anthony asked.

"My brother is more interested in history than he is girls," Jasmine teased.

"That's not exactly true," Anthony protested.

"There is something much better than a school of history," Cedric, said. "There is a kind of library and museum of history run by a friend of mine. He has the largest collection, perhaps the only collection, of forbidden history, literature, art, and music."

"But it's not free," Anthony said.

"That's right, but it is not expensive."

"It doesn't matter what the price is," Anthony says, "It's too expensive for me, since I do not have any money at all."

"Oh, but you will, a little later this afternoon," Cedric said. "The price I got for your gold chains was more than is needed to buy the thessaline. You can divide it among yourselves, but you can't take it with you when you leave. It's not worth anything outside ChildIsle anyway."

"I would sure like to see that library," Anthony said.

"You can go now, if you'd like," Cedric said. "I'll lend you the ChildIsle money and take it out of what I would have given you later."

The building itself was round, unlike the more angular buildings they had seen everywhere. "You coming?" Anthony asked Lester and Jasmine. "No, we'll complete the tour."

They watched Anthony walk up the steps and walk through the huge front door as they drove away.



"You know, he won't come out of there unless someone goes to get him. Once he starts to read or study he's in his own little world," Jasmine said.

"I'll come back and get him later," Cedric said.

"Would you like to live here?" Lester asked Jasmine softly.

"Oh, Lester, I'd love nothing more. I think it would be hard, but you love hard work, and so do I. No Forbidders, no forbidder's agents, being free to learn and do anything. How could I not want to live here. But I've committed myself to our mission, and right now that's what I want more than anything else," Jasmine said.

"Maybe, someday," Lester said.

"Oh Lester, if you wanted to come back and wanted me with you, you know I would come back in a heartbeat."

"Well, I wouldn't come back without you," Lester said.

Cedric had been describing various buildings they were passing, the mills, the fish processing plants, and the stone finishing factories. He was quite aware that Jasmine and Lester were not totally interested in his descriptions.

"May I ask you something?" Cedric said. "You might think it's personal, but it is not meant to be. One of the things you would find different in ChildIsle is what I call a romantic spirit. When Nochose come here, they almost never have it.

"I've noticed you two and Eddy and Yuwon, and it is obvious you have made your love for each other the most important thing in life. Is that very common where you come from?" Cedric asked.

"No, it is not common at all," Jasmine said. "Romantic love is almost always looked down on as some kind of weakness or fantasy. Most people do not believe in it and certainly don't have it."

"Then why have you and Lester and Yuwon and Eddy found it? Are you very different from others?"

"Oh yes," Jasmine said. "We're not like most others at all. My brother Anthony is not like that, and Eddy's sister Veronica is not like that, although I think she'd like to be. Most people are like Anthony and Veronica."

"What makes you different from the others?" Cedric asked.

"Nothing," Lester said. "What we are we have chosen to be. Nothing makes us different. If we are different it is because we have chosen to be and the others haven't."

"Is it really that simple?" Cedric asked.

Jasmine and Lester looked at each other and said in unison, "It is really that simple."

***