Forward (by Diane Fitzpatton)
To truly understand the Decade in Chains, one must first explore Newton Foundling. To me, the Decade in Chains and the man who broke them have been, and continue to be, inextricably linked. I have published three histories, an uncountable number of articles, and without question spent a lifetime researching every available piece of evidence that might give some small insight into this inferno that birthed the modern era. I have often been asked why. Why have I dedicated my life to exploring the darkest period in the history of mankind? Why relive the pain of torture and slavery when we have at long last put it behind us? Why ask the world to remember when all we want to do is forget?
At first, the answer seems simple:
Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.
Know thine enemy and know thyself.
It is only by understanding the darkness that we can understand the light.
Etc., etc., etc....
If I am honest, however, my life’s work has been born of a desire not to teach, but to understand. Like so many freedom babies, I long to know where I came from. I long to know of the world my parents feared to speak of. I long to know who I am.
And I am, alas, easily distracted.
While volume four of my comprehensive history languished on my desk, a first draft not yet half completed, I allowed my research to wander. I put away the focused thoughts of the dedicated researcher, and became, once again, the wide eyed student open to any new idea that might pass her way. I have found that this is a good thing. Wandering in my research has often allowed me to find stories I would never have found otherwise. It has brought new smells and new colors, allowed me to hear voices that gave my own work new timbre. It has served me well, and I have learned not to fear it. So when, from time to time, I would begin to lose interest in my work, I would follow links and paths to new places without agenda. Wander.
One such wandering led me to a longer than usual period of distraction in which I discovered, in a condemned bookshop, a moth-eaten but still readable account of what seemed to be Newton Foundling’s mother. This account was written by the journalist Ethel Ackerman, and concerned the woman many would come to believe gave life to our greatest hero, a man of whom I have said repeatedly that we must understand, if ever we are to understand the generation of the oppressed, the darkness that bore us, the Decade in Chains.
I have, of course, spoken of Newton Foundling at length in both Man of the Decade, and Bridging the Gap, but a few more words here would not be entirely out of place. He was one of us. He was part human, part machine, part alien. He suffered before the war, and because of the war. He was born with the secret inside of him that would free us all from our alien oppressors, but could never have done so had he not found his own strength within. I have always believed that this strength was born of necessity, of his oppressed youth as an orphan in the rehabilitation center, of his search for a home, of overcoming the hate and prejudice he experienced on the streets of Chicago. But what if that strength, like the secret weapon inside him, was part of his nature? What if it was inherited? What must we learn of his natural parents?
Ethel Ackerman’s history has much to teach us, not about Newton, but about the dust from which he was created. That dust had been swirling around a small town in northwestern Illinois for over a century, before a catalyst pulled it together to form something greater. At the time that she gathered her history, she could not possibly have known the value it would some day hold for us, and yet she poked and prodded where she wasn’t welcome, begged mothers to talk of their murdered children, and explored an event that could only prove to predict the darkest destiny of mankind. Why did she do it? Why was she, like me, so attracted to telling a history most people would have preferred to forget? Was she trying to show us the cruelty of man, to show us our weakness in the hope that we would learn to overcome it? Was she, like me, longing to better understand who she was?
As a history, it is a fascinating exploration of the people we were before the Decade in Chains. In that way, it reminds me of Bridging the Gap, where I studied the formative years of Newton prior to the invasion. It is a curious look at the last era of free man, and what we did with that freedom. In context, however, it becomes an invaluable look into prehistory, and the events that would not only serve to shape Newton, but by doing so, the world as we know it.
If we are to understand ourselves, we must begin with the Decade in Chains. If we are to understand the Decade in Chains, we must begin with Newton. And if we are to understand Newton, we must begin with Ackerman.