The tracking sector complex of Mite Industries Special Projects was quiet as a church on Monday. For the past few hours there had been not much more than murmurs and whispers. Technicians with electronic pencils stuck over their ears and scientists with micropads clenched in their fists huddled in pensive, scattered clusters.
Behind the enveloping glass panes of the control center Jeremy, assailed by the mulligrubs, lackadaisically massaged the sides of his head with his thumbs. Mike, himself hounded by blue devils, slumped in his chair chewing on the wood of an old pencil.
Fingle dried the drops from his bristly brows.
Chickbrow was mulling.
Dr. Krell had explained very simply a very complex supposition. The essence was, that SEPTOR use its retro and attitude rockets to accelerate towards the black hole. Then, at a critical point, when its drift equaled that of the surrounding flux heading for the hole, jump into the hole. He explained, of course, that since the direction of the jump was not in opposition to the pull of the singularity, the tachyon generator pods would work.
They did. SEPTOR had been saved. Empty of its crew.
The uninhabited craft was in orbit around Earth. Its automatic telescopes and biosphere-sensing apparatus were sending in a flood of crisp, intelligible data.
The data was checked and re-checked, but the results did not vary by much: the Poles were missing, the seas too, and the atmosphere, and life.
"All those jumps," Chickbrow could still hear the Professor's matter of fact and lulling articulation, "were so much time stored."
"How much time do we have, Dr. Krell?" the Top Executive had asked on the direct line.
"Oh, the black hole devoured most of it, and, let's see, there's the return trip--we managed to do that in three jumps, so we saved some time there. My calculations verify the rumored ones. Say twenty years, plus/minus two, Mr. President."
"Mr. President, it was a black hole. Lovesigh and the chimp were organic matter. SEPTOR was not. Who can say?"
Chickbrow had left the public announcement system on and the commendations followed (probably a third Nobel was in the making somewhere in Sweden for the Professor).
Special Projects was now The Special Projects Group and funds restrictions were immediately lifted. While the untenanted SEPTOR circled the Earth of twenty years into the future, somehow relaying images of a dreadful prophecy, an ambivalent new perspective involving the planet seemed to be in the making.
But people, Chickbrow reflected, don't really want to migrate to the stars because their home was condemned. They'd want to go there, sure, but they'd want a home to return to. Just then words from an old, twentieth century song came to mind. 'You don't know whatcha got / until you loose it / You gave me all your love / but I misused it'.
In the twenty-first century folk worked together to save SEPTOR, and it proved to them that this oneness had also achieved to warn and prepare humanity; to show the yield that was man's folly.
"Dr. Krell," he spoke cheerlessly into the unbroken link. "Can't Earth be saved? If there was an all out effort, couldn't we change the future?"
"In a finite universe there are finite possibilities, and our Universe is finite, David. Then again, there are finite choices--but by no means are these few."
"Then there is a possibility since choices exist?"
"Existed." There was sternness now in Krell's tone. "There is trend along with choice, and man's overall tendency has been to consistently make the wrong choices. We, ourselves, have elected to stray to the edge of the cliff. Millions upon millions, a history of choices are now proving themselves fallacious."
Chickbrow frowned. "Then we'll drag it all with us to wherever we go."
Jeremy and Mike listened, apparently in no mood to contribute.
Chickbrow glared around him like a snared lynx.
"David," the Professor, sensing the other's distress, inverted to a fatherly tone, "man learns from his mistakes."
"Not quick enough."
"Quick enough to save man with respect and pride," he almost lashed out. "To survive without decimating and ravaging first. Quick enough to quit being arrogant adolescents, get our act together, and start strutting faith in ourselves and some trace of propriety and honor--dignity too."
"Have we outgrown that word, Dr. Krell?" he dampened a pinch. "Or have we elbowed it aside?"
"I didn't know indian people had so much romance in them. You so eloquently just pointed out one of my fallacies! Ignorances, really. That's what the world is, ignorant, not arrogant, David."
There was a pause on the phone line.
"No, I don't think dignity has been outcasted," Krell said. "It's a brittle word and needs to be protected. So we lodge it somewhere deep inside of us, and forget it, like honor. Ill-used so often."
Again the communicator went silent for a moment. "You want to hear of another, second miracle? This line is coded, isn't it? Nobody can listen in?"
"This has to be kept privy. Otherwise, it won't work."
Chickbrow looked at Fingle, Mike and Jeremy.
Lovesigh amputated from his reverie and inclined his head back.
The heavens, as he examined them, held only the new map of the firmament. But shortly as his feeble eyes adjusted a shimmer spread on the sky. Pinpricks of flickers, vestiges of glints and glitters.
Speedily a brilliant haze scattered amidst the empty tracts of the nebula clusters. The ghostly grain grew more resplendent, till in his imagination's ear whispers of seared and violated space 'hissed' above them.
Lovesigh quickly covered his eyes with his sleeve, "The beacon, Champ. Power it!"
Champ pushed the plate into the other's hand and foundered to the vivarium's middle.
"Activate! Activate!" Lovesigh shouted, disposing of the plate, and himself trudging to the net's controls.
With the flat of his palm he threw his whole weight over a thick ebony quartz on the power node at the topmost of a support pillar. A thin whine rose from the ship's guts. "Down, down," his face buffed red, the eyes goggled.
The hovering square net over the ship and a stretch of surrounding space flourished darker still. A melanite regularity, whose sable sharp edges Lovesigh could spot from where he stood, covered them.
A sector of the Galaxy simply vanished. Lovesigh could discern chaffs of palpable vermilion and almost hear the crackle from the web as fields bent, coiling around the interstices in live mauve lightning.
Lovesigh turned. He leered. A cataract of dense stench poured down on them. "Deteriorated oxygen."
He'd never get used to the wretched sight, to what emanated from the beacon's sullied hulk. His face slowly took on the cast of a moldering tombstone and his bulging eyes grew to puffy circles of white.
"Things Champ cannot see," he moaned, rubbing an abused shoulder.
Above the chimp towered a cone of viscous emptiness. A shaft so hollow of light that the glow of the vivarium's dimmed lanterns seemed to careen to it. He felt his own sight being trawled from its sockets to the abyss. Some long-forgotten nightmare tore at Lovesigh's mind, but the only evidence of distress was the worried tone when he spoke to the other.
"Get away from that thing!" he shouted, his nerves thrumming wildly. He felt himself being towed lightly to the humming beacon, away from the net's controls.
The chimp staggered, its face impassive, its hair on end, ploughing under the vacuous shadow towards him.
"What do you see?" it asked. Lovesigh braced him by the arm.
"Lights, the size of fists--no one alike--all glow, no body, sallying down." He spoke and rubbed his chest.
"Ah, the net holds, high and mighty, chimp. Blacker than a raven dipped in pitch. But it tends to its job. To left and right, all around, the light-spores are being baffled and sluiced into streams, are listing out of course and snared like birds of fire." He stammered breathless, until his knees sagged.
His bones and muscles seemed to be melting. He sank on the iron deck trying to remember something. It was urgent.
"The 'stars', Lovesigh?"
Lovesigh brushed a wetness from his forehead and cheek. Tried to focus. "The 'stars' are a dancing, rainbow jewel tonight. The lights are everywhere. These are not shallow colors..." His look lingered briefly on Champ. "We float on rippling radiance laced with sparkles where the 'stars' smash and break into the nets surface."
Such lightheadedness, he pondered dazedly, and blinked in an effort to clear it away.
"Are there many to catch?"
"Enough..." He lost himself in his words.
Lovesigh's fingers numbed. He was becoming disoriented among the syllables and their articulation. The silent rain of lights around him somehow made all utterance redundant.
"Chimp," he breathed heavily, "help me--"
The chimp kneeled beside him. His narrow face was now drawn.
"What's happening?" Lovesigh gasped.
Champ fidgeted, his eyes glistening, wise.
"They're calling for you," he tried to soothe.
"Calling?" Lovesigh struggled with the pain and to understand.
"Share with them--"
"--be born from your shell again, Lovesigh."
Lovesigh listened mouth agape, his nape tingling.
"The black stars are extensions of the fringe. Like the beacon, the fringe allures all life force," The chimp wooed him and rocked gently holding him caringly in its long lanky arms. "The spirit energy, Lovesigh. It is in its design. It reclaims and forges it into spores of sustained consciousness." It waved a hand over their heads, "and sows them throughout."
"Our souls?" Lovesigh blurred.
"Not a soul is lost to the Universe, Lovesigh."
He subtly remembered. The chimp's nano-implants. No no it had to be more than that. The head gash! Yes--another eye that saw all that other eyes could not. "They were wrong. You can see too."
Lovesigh's tenor changed.
"--star-struck, not wounded," he dribbled, and clutched at the chimp's hand. His expression smoothed. He began himself to see more.
How divine a plan. He was instantly astounded by the lucid images taking shape in his mind, as clear and obvious as a remembered dream.
The oasis, right there in front of him. The vivarium's atmosphere. The spores broke its chemistry down to its elements, and quicker than the primitive indigenous algae, so impending life could breathe. The little bright 'star's' partiality to darkness in the deep soil of the vivarium was to protect sensitive, neonatal life forms evolving into full bloom.
The chimp, right there in front of him, was the answer. Omega's artificial processors had not the affinity the chimp--all brains--had. Unlike Champ's inherent organic constitution, the wormholes broke the Omega's inferior synthesis down to subatomic states, to its quarks and gluons, quicker than the electronics could reconstitute them, so impending solutions simply annihilated. The wormholes were partial to deep or--or animate space: to balance the receptive, born anew fractal or other 'life forms' evolving into full bloom. They and the fringe were the terrarium of the Universe.
A tiny wormhole end guided in the organic chimp brain.
A tiny star flowed, guiding, in the chimp's veins.
"You will live for ever, chimp."
"We all do, Lovesigh. We just don't know it."
"Antonio, Champ," Lovesigh whispered, while his eyes begged to close.
"Which Antonio, the old master wrote of five?"
"You learn well, chimp."
"You teach well, Maestro."
There was a blur. His shoulders heaved. A stinging-hot, bone-splintering agony crushed Lovesigh and swept to his hands, down his crotch, toes. He strained for a shallow breath and--"Whoosh!"
Chickbrow detected a kind of puckish fun-lovingness there. His boss's composed bearing and phlegmatic diction hastily turned ecstatic.
"Our Universe may be finite, David, but I've got a hunch its not the only one around. That black 'pit' of a hole slung SEPTOR way out. I think we've maneuvered SEPTOR in another space-time continuum, altogether. Anchored it to an Earth of another, but analogous, universe."
The three men slowly stood up and walked to the communicator.
Chickbrow nearly quailed, "You mean that's not our Earth?"
"It doesn't have to be. Tachions can't propagate through time alone; that's like someone sitting in a chair here on Earth and waiting for the passage of time to transport them to the moon. There has to be spacial displacement involved, too!"
"If I copy," Chickbrow broke in, " you're saying those pictures we're getting from SEPTOR are not of our future? But the future of an ersatz--a proxy Earth?"
"May not, Chickbrow, may not be our own future. The Uncertainty Principle says it, not me.
"On the other hand, it might be our Earth at that. Time, you see, stops inside a black hole. There is no present there, only a future. Things outside a singularity, if they could be observed (an impossibility of course), would dash about with ungodly speed. Many times that of light. Within a blink of our black-hole-observer billions of years would have elapsed--galaxies born, matured and died--all in this instant. So, in transpiring through the hole, even by a spontaneous jump, who can say that SEPTOR was not delayed an infinitesimal of a blink? But still to emerge in our Universe, with merely a shred of detainment of twenty years."
"But the space/time factor--aren't you ignoring it now?" Chickbrow rebounded.
"I don't know, David. That's the funny part. Paradoxes work within their own very esoteric, awfully private laws. So ethereal and touchy are these that if we were to intrude upon them, upon this other, second, miracle by conventional scientific analysis, or simply locution, we'd be ruffling the very time-space fabric or, worse, cause the miracle to fail."
A long pause.
"I'm aware of that."
"That's why he didn't tell the President," Fingle broke in.
"What's that?" Dr. Krell blared over the line.
"Mr. Abe Fingle is here with me," Chickbrow appended, disturbed.
"Oh, Chickbrow..." the voice groaned, "you had given me your word!"
Fingle looked bewildered.
"Sir, I didn't realize the gravity--it's only three more people who know--"
"Three! Here I groped in dilemma whether to tell you, and just you alone. Kept back information from the President. And you say only three!"
"Dr. Krell," Jeremy tried to mollify the afflicted man. "I'm not going to talk about it--to anyone. Not to my wife even."
Mike, puzzled at the turn of things, snorted. "We really need guys like you," he mumbled, under his bulky orange mustache, "with all this joy breaking out all over." Then more loudly, "Sir, I'm not going to talk about this thing--even at confession. And I'm an Old Catholic!"
Fingle's eyes began to twitch. But he remained silent.
"No, no--it's the knowledge of it," Dr. Krell bellowed. "The knowing itself is what effects the outcome. This new modicum of knowledge now vacillating in three additional brains--your brains Mr. Fingle, Mike and Jeremy--brings into play a uniquely separate causality. Even mere thinking can warp the quantum mechanisms." Then, as though to himself, "People are timid creatures, they won't want to stick around to find out if Earth will end up like that. They'd want OUT!"
"You want them to believe that that's our Earth?" Fingle now pointed to the holograph unaware that the other could not see it.
"Don't you, Mr. Fingle? If it is our Earth we're getting those signals from, how else will we change its future? Save it? But to get people involved building more space arks instead of more Earth-sapping, air-choking industries and people-cluttering institutions and plants. Now's the chance to channel industry not to industries--and to this mad and frenetic proliferation that's suffocating us--but direct it to charting other voyages, for other new Americas, Australias. But out there this time. Trundle humanity from its blissful hara-kiri. Jiggle people out of their stupor so they neglect to go on killing this planet."
"It's a decoy, Dr. Krell." Fingle's tone was dead somber. His eyes stopped their twitch. "To say the least."
"An honorable decoy, wouldn't you say? Or do you endorse that cinder upon your screen? 99.99 percent of Earth's population, Mr. Fingle, is ignorant that a Universe exists. Ask'em, 'What's that thing sparkling up in the sky?' They say, 'A Star.' And you ask, 'What is a star?' 'A thing that comes out at night.' And that's where most people's learnedness ends concerning the magnitude of what surrounds us."
" 'Man learns' your own words, Dr. Krell," said Chickbrow in all his earnesty. "Dr. Krell, don't dignity and honor infer truth? Hoodwinking mankind, is it really the solution? There's a Chinese saying by Lao-tzu, 'A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.' Can't this be that one, first, and significant step/choice that is not fallacious, out of the history of choices? Wouldn't we be only burgeoning the world's ignorance, be furthering the exploits of a dastardly few by withholding this knowledge?"
"If you tell the world," Krell parried, "that that may not be Earth, our future, do you think the world would benefit from the doubt? Look around you, Chickbrow. Bona fide power thrives on the doubt of the populous, the little man. If man does not scuttle his fellow man, man scuttles his environment. When man seeks power no means--whether they be education, principles, cultivation or ideals--ever found have barred his way. Trend, Chickbrow, has a robustly frightful and protracted impetus in our case--thousands of years of lowly, dishonoring, and contemptful choices.
"Only if the charred remains of Earth blare bluntly at them, like a tombstone epitaph, will people get the message. Authority, someone had said, rarely survives in face of doubt. We need authority, here and now, to eradicate all doubt. Man is lazy and gets bored easily, David, Mr. Fingle. All else he'll humor away--all but raw consternations like fear, alarm, shock. These proved to function in the past. Arms and armies, clubs and gendarmes, witch-hunts, inquisitions and persecutions, Xenons, generals, government men got the ball rolling..."
Mike had noticed it first.
A slow undulation of colors on the globe depicted on the overhead screen. Every time Chickbrow or Fingle spoke the sphere's surface texture seemed changed by a bit--the hews appeared less parched-reds and desert-ambers, and more fertile-browns; even small specks of greens dabbed the Earth here and there.
He nudged Jeremy and both observed these pigments fade as Dr. Krell finished rebutting.
"Duress, Dr. Krell, works ephemerally, not enduringly. In the long run that which survives is that which humankind has sustained by its freedom to choose, may that even be its very end. It's called responsibility and consequence. If men and women are inept it is not because they are inapt, but because the attitude as such has been fixated into them and misled them..."
Not only were the greens and browns spreading now, but there were smidgens of resonant cyans emanating from vast, deep-seated canyons while pearly, frosty whites glimmered at the Poles.
Mike nudged Chickbrow to turn to the holograph, and looked at Jeremy, and Jeremy returned Mike's look and buoyed up.
Chickbrow put a hand on Fingle's shoulder giving a heartening clasp. Mike and Jeremy patted him behind the other shoulder, esprit de corps fashion.
Fingle, surprised but cheered by his aimcriers, drove on, cleaving through Dr. Krell's tenuous grounds and despondent argumentation, atomizing the other's motives and goals.
Every once in a while the two mite-techs would glimpse over their shoulder, and when the professor happened to speak they would cough and belch and Mike would let out air in loud raucous fits.
The introspective faces from those outside turned to the screen one-by-one. As each pair of eyes beheld the metamorphosis, a maelstrom began to brew over the Earth. A pandemonium of blooming wrought forth more pasture-greens, azure-blues, and feathery drifts of whites. The shrill of cheers and applause infiltrated the sound-proofing.
"What's all that din, Chickbrow?"
When Fingle turned, a new Earth confronted him. One he had seen many times and was so familiar with.
"It's only another miracle," said Chickbrow. Then, with ebony-blue eyes wise and smiling, "Dr. Krell, about doubt. Roosevelt, I think, said, 'The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.'"
Mike grunted with pleasure and graciously flipped the com switch off.
Uninterrupted now, Fingle watched their bonhomie future-nest forge anew before them, by them, and splurged a lavish smile. Dimple and all.
The pain dispersed. The last of the maelstrom in his mind cleared away. Everything appeared different, more comprehensible than he had ever perceived before, as if he had looked at life through a veil, until now.
He regarded the reclining, motionless chimp next to him. A trickle of blood stained the bridge of its nose.
"The star abandoned you, fool chimp," he blustered. "You're going to die--"
While the words still spilled out, he ran to the beacon. His convict's shoddy body no longer weighed him down, forcing him to drag along like a sloppy walrus out of water. Discovered the thrusting pain in his shoulder was not there either.
Suddenly his awareness exploded.
He thought he too was going to be left blind, until his senses told him differently. Yet in this increment he saw around him what his otherwise simple sight could not have beheld in a lifetime. Lovesigh gawked, utterly bewildered.
The chimp stirred and lay still again.
Lovesigh yanked his stare free from the uncanny iridescence of the net. Got a firm grip on the beacon. He put both shoulders to it, "Move, clambering junk pile."
He pushed, tipping the issuing onion head off to one side. The black funnel slowly pitched, leaving the net's center above and crawled to the net's edge.
Two passing streaks at that moment deflected violently. They swerved into the jet spray of the beacon, through the bubble overhead without breaching it, and dashed on the steel deck, splintering and showering an umbrella of sparks. Lovesigh let the beacon down.
"How big a piece!.."
Gingerly, and with the aid of his net-picking thimbles, he culled a loose fragment and trotted to the chimp. He leaned over Champ's head ready to release it in the break of the wound.
"It's not necessary," the ape said, and waived the hand away.
He jarred back, dropped the 'star' morsel, which slithered away to its core, became one with it, took on an ethereal form and shape, rose from its knees and walked away.
Lovesigh's head turned from one to the other in rapid succession.
"Did you see that?"
Lovesigh sat up and studied the chimp dazed-like.
"You're not Champ," he said.
The other nodded.
The other nodded.
The other shook its head. "'Stars' are symbiotes, not usurpers."
"Where is the chimp?"
"Where do you think?"
Lovesigh grimaced, his face becoming a checkerboard of emotions. Reluctantly, he wiped a quaking hand over the numb soreness of his forehead--and quickly brought it back down.
It was bloodied.
"He will soon finish re-orienting your genes: hostility-inclined temperament, timorous lung. Also your old afflictions that you brought into your new body: fluctuations in enzyme and hormone consistencies, dyspepsia, hepatic and pancreatic exoncomata, et cetera. Your ParaDi."
"He knew that you were slowly dying today. He must love you, Lovesigh, to do this. Another's body is never easy work."
"Who are you?"
"A heart that loves Chross, and Champ. What's left of my body lies in the depths of a South African pond," a hand showed the other galactic spiral, "while his wandered the seven Great Deserts, for years, searching. Only to find me here. He has little need of food, water and most other earthly things. Champ is hosting, besides me, a star-handler. What you call a doctor, a white doctor. I'm Olivia. I was Chross's black bride-to-be. Killed and thrown in the water, in a sack of stones."
Lovesigh's cheeks chagrined. "I don't understand..."
"Nor do I. Perhaps not Champ, or Chross, fully even--"
Lovesigh's eyes turned over, only the white was there. He staggered, his arms groping. "I'm blinded!"
"No, old nanny, I'm the blind one."
"The same. Other than loss of sight, how do you feel?
"Fine, but how--"
"No time for explanations, Lovesigh. You do feel well?
"Yes. Matter of fact, I haven't felt like this since...since--"
"--since your figs were plumbs?
Lovesighs face blazed cherry red.
"Don't fret, Lovesigh. Olivia can only hear `you'. Not me. And that because you're talking out loud. Just think your words, I'll hear them." _
"You're trembling" Olivia, Lovesigh discovered, was holding his outstretched hands. "Are you all right?"
"I think so."
"I too was afraid when I was going over, and terrified after, when Chross found me and I discovered that I was still aware of everything.
"Not afraid," Lovesigh said. "Eh, just, surprised. Chross/Champ, you there?"
"What's happening? Why do I feel the way I do?"
"Doing some surgery...you'll have your sight back."
"Answer my question, Champ/Chross!"
"I've set a trimming reaction through your DNA. About thirty years worth."
SEPTOR's instant communications had come to live once again.
"What manner stars are you?" they heard Lovesigh ask.
Michael, Fingle and Chickbrow tilted their heads. They raise their sight up as one and looked hard at the broad cube visor. They attended the inside not of an empty vivarium this time.
Down, down through the night side of a future or a past Earth, of another SEPTOR somewhere in one of perhaps among an infinite number of derivative universes...Down, down from the fibers of Lovesigh's net a deluge emptied. Brothers and sisters, recently lost. Parents and grandparents, not long gone. Alexi and...
"That's...it can't be--"
"She was--is young. I'm..." Lovesigh looked down and away. Into the glossy back side of the plate Olivia now held. He gazed at a bracing, red-haired youth, staring him back with pert cyan eyes.
The star in Champ's body smiled kindly, "Not any older-looking than Earth-born, star-struck Champ--would you believe one hundred and fifteen."
"Chross, why all the secrecy? Why not tell me from the start?"
"Would you have accepted it? An ape from the wild telling an old nanny like you that the universe had chosen, out of the billions of years, this very interval of its history, our lifetimes, to desegregate the corporeal and the incorporeal?"
The monkey bared its clean white teeth at him.
"A verse, lad. Any verse. Nanny indeed!"
Lovesigh grimaced at the sprite tone, made a lemon-licking face, but capitulated with a rare intensity.
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace..."
Down, down drifted Alope, undulating greetings to Lovesigh in cottony white opal, in warm chrysoberyl, in scarlet almandine, in haunting lapis lazuli, in emerald olivine....
Champ Jr. copiloted the first migration vessel to leave Earth by means of the fringe. The craft also served as a shell to protect its occupants from stormy conditions on some freshly visited planets and as a place of temporary quarters. Now that a plethora of new, livable worlds was being indexed, the demands of the powerful and their power had become diluted in view of the unmistakably huge supply of worlds out there.
Upon further analyses and study it was discovered that the prime numbers in Dr. Lovesigh's equation solutions designated additional wormhole ends--our brains. Further study was under way to make their function known.
The last corporeal remains of Dr. Lovesigh were allowed to be removed from the machine by the mites. Nevertheless, the voice remained, a distant, familiar voice that answered to the same name. It had come and gone at its own volition, but had always been there in Earth's time of need.
Capt. D. P. Chickbrow
Mite Industries Ark 2
Log Entry: 21 May 2055
Vasilis is from Athens, Greece and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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