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It had been an arduous, exhausting journey, over poisonous waters, through many desolate, dangerous places and long-forgotten landscapes. Flagging spirits were revived with tales of the past and hopes for the future. As parched desert grudgingly gave way to stark reminders of how close mankind had come to total annihilation, they saw the distant shimmer of civilisation. They smiled at each other, savouring the sweet moment of discovery.

It was a Sweeper team, patrolling the borders of the Outer Nethers, which spotted them initially. The Sweeper Captain could not at first assimilate what he was seeing. Four vehicles in convoy were heading ceremoniously down what remained of an old Freeway. Their appearance was utterly outside the Captain's experience. The first and last vehicles were huge, black, 24 wheeled trucks. He could hear the ground trembling as they approached. Between the black trucks were two white trucks, equally immense, with darkened windows. Emblazoned on the front of each monster, glittering in the sunlight, was a great golden 'E'.

The Captain nearly dropped the radio in his haste to report the sighting. The convoy had almost reached the border when orders were issued from the highest level. The Sweepers were to pull out in front of the trucks and lead them through the Nethers to the Eastern City gates. Other teams would join them until the convoy was essentially surrounded. No shots were to be fired.

Hours later, the spectacle arrived at the gates of Libria.

The great doors opened and the convoy passed through, preceded by three Sweeper trucks with three more bringing up the rear and flanked by dozens of motorcycles. Librians going about their daily routines stared in disbelief at the procession. Once at the Palace of Justice, the leading truck rolled to a position just beyond the great steps, pneumatic brakes hissing in protest as the immense vehicle slowed and stopped. The rest followed suit, leaving the second white leviathan directly in front of the steps.

Black-helmeted Palace Guards, rifles at the ready, stood motionless, waiting. The grand doors of the Palace opened and a man stepped through, closely flanked by more guards. He descended at a measured pace, stopping four steps from the ground, bringing him level with the vast doors of the truck. He waited, his expression unreadable.

More pneumatics heralded the opening of the door. It slid outwards and sideways. The atmosphere became tense as white steps unfolded. From the shadowy interior, a tall white-clad figure emerged, arms open, the palms of the hands upturned. He looked across at the man on the steps and smiled.

"Libria, we have travelled a great distance to be with you, today. In the name of Peace, the Envoys of Entropia greet you!"

The man on the steps swallowed, his lips forming into a thin imitation of a smile. When he spoke, his voice was taut.

"Libria welcomes you, Envoys of Entropia. This is indeed a great day for us all."

The white-robed man continued down and was immediately followed by three more similarly dressed, smiling figures. All four started up the steps towards the Librian, who turned and led them into the Palace of Justice.

Once inside, the Envoys, now escorted by guards, were taken to an imposing office, where they began their formal introductions. The Librian spoke first, in clipped tones.

"I am Vice-Council DuPont, of the Third Councillary of the Tetragrammaton. And you are....?"

"Maximillian, of the House of Lyon. These are my compatriots." Smiling broadly, he swept his hand towards the others. " Theodore, of the House of Marseille; Sebastian, of the House of Toulouse and Giselle, of the House of Bordeaux." The others bowed slightly. DuPont eyed them, cautiously. Maximillian continued, "We are empowered by the people of Entropia to forge an alliance between our peoples. We know little of your great society other than, like us, it has freed itself from the horrors of war and now exists in peace and harmony. Our transition was not an easy one - the very name Entropia means chaos and disorder - but we persevered and now hold ourselves as a shining example of Democracy."

"Indeed," DuPont replied, running his fingers over the cool granite of his desk. "I will arrange a meeting of the Council. I am sure they are eager to hear of your triumphs."

News of the visitors took time to disseminate through the City. As with most things, little interest was shown by the citizens. Father would tell the people what they needed to know and so far, he had remained silent. Certain groups of individuals, however, were most interested and a wave of excitement spread rapidly through covert meetings.

The Entropian contingent was not as large as the Council had assumed when the trucks arrived. The Envoys were supported by a small team of administrators, personal assistants, drivers and a few guards who carried non-lethal weapons. One of the trucks was packed with sculptures, paintings, books, musical instruments, films and recordings.

Maximillian led the discussions, but the others had equal authority. They spoke of the freedoms their society held in esteem; the pursuit of excellence in all things artistic; their dream of once again uniting the world. They extolled the virtues of their democratic system and the peaceful existence all Entropians enjoyed. DuPont listened, stunned into silence by the enormity of the concepts which assailed his mind: democracy; freedom; family; love.

The Envoys had many questions about Librian society. They wanted to know about its system of government, how the people enjoyed their lives. They were curious about the level of security apparent in the Palace and elsewhere and asked about the severe, black-coated men they encountered on occasions. What, exactly, was a Cleric's function? DuPont skilfully evaded and obfuscated. It was preferable that the Entropians remained ignorant of Libria's true nature for as long as possible.

Late one afternoon, DuPont asked the Envoys about their communications with Entropia. Their trucks bristled with sophisticated equipment. Giselle answered with a gentle laugh.

"We were fine until we got half-way across the continent, but we can't communicate directly from here. We thought we would send one of the trucks back out again so that it could pick up a signal. Entropia will be thrilled to know we've found you. There were some who were sceptical, you know." She smiled encouragingly. DuPont smiled back.

"I have been most remiss, Envoys, in not showing you our wonderful city. Please permit me to arrange a tour for you. I myself would be honoured to be your guide."

"It is we who would be honoured, Vice-Council," replied Giselle.

Early next morning, Father's limousine was seen gliding around the sights of Libria.

They were shadowed the entire journey by two Sweeper teams. They drove through the Industrial Sector and looked at the huge water processing plants. They were suitably impressed with the hydroponics and protein producing facilities. Dupont pointed out the fine architecture and fudged replies concerning the vast 'Equilibrium' buildings and the strange devices the people all seemed to carry.

Finally, they stopped outside another impressive building and DuPont invited them to go inside. In the sombre hallway, he spoke quietly to a Cleric who was waiting for him there. Eventually, he nodded, seeming satisfied with what he heard.

He led the Envoys down a long corridor, explaining that the City had an immense appetite for energy and power.

"Obviously, we need to produce incredible amounts of heat on a daily basis to keep the City warm. This is one of our facilities. If you would move along to the end of the hallway, you will see what I mean."

As the Envoys reached the control area for the City Furnaces, their expressions changed from intense interest to confusion. They viewed the walkway and the flames raging behind the glass panelled door with the stirrings of concern. Maximillian turned to DuPont.

"Vice-Council, I do not understand this place. There are many things about your society which are beginning to trouble us and..." His voice trailed off as the operator turned off the fires. The doors hissed open, steam rolling and swirling around their feet.

"You see, Envoy," DuPont's voice was icy, "We needed time to establish that communication with Entropia was indeed impossible. We cannot allow the destabilisation of our great society by outsiders. This is the most expedient resolution. Your kinsmen will assume that you perished on the journey and if they are prudent, they will determine that it is neither feasible, nor advisable, to send further delegations. Please...step into the chamber."

The four Envoys were too shocked to speak as the guards ushered them forward at gunpoint. They huddled together, terror etched on their faces as the doors closed. The turbines primed, the countdown sounded. DuPont smiled in satisfaction as the flames purged Libria of the contamination which had threatened its very existence.

Much later, in another office, high in the Palace, the Vice-Council read through the report detailing the execution of the remaining Entropians and the confiscation and destruction of the EC-10 designated materials found in the great black truck. Well.....most of them. His eyes turned to the beautiful leather-bound book on his desk. Dante's 'Inferno'. How appropriate!

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