by Tala Bar
Chapter 5: Visions of Earth
“Look,” Leshem typed in, “it was not my idea to communicate with nonexistent people, so don’t take it out on me.” She did not yet understand that these words appeared at the same time as shapes and colors on Shahm’s monitor.
“Nonexistent?” he sent his own version of protest across Time’s difference. “I can promise you I certainly exist! It’s you who are mythical creatures who have never existed except in the imagination of some misfits like Gahn and her like. I suspect perhaps Oul had something to do with it, and if I could prove it...”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Leshem retorted. “Lilit said we should communicate with our future descendants, so that we can learn how to create you... The very idea is so preposterous!”
“We are your descendants? That’s exactly the blasphemy I’ve been talking about! Where have you come from, anyway?”
The image of the spaceship suddenly appeared on both terminals.
“What is that thing?” Shahm’s outburst, appearing in his mind as an explosion of irregular shapes in orange, red and yellow, showed on the ship’s terminal as a series of exclamation and question marks at the same time as Leshem’s words.
“That’s it! That’s our ship in which we traveled from Earth and landed here, on this godforsaken planet impossibly surrounded by three suns.”
There was a momentary silence. Then, “How...?”
Words appeared on the ship’s terminal. “Open your mind to him, Leshem, it’s simpler than to type it out.”
Confused, Leshem thought of their trip, and the strange accident that had landed them on Lunari. The story appeared before Shahm in a series of pictures and markings.
“What are you saying?” Shahm’s mind interrupted her own. “I don’t believe any of this. And who are you to teach me things?”
Leshem, usually a good-natured person, suddenly burst out laughing at the absurdity she had encountered; her laughter was very obvious in Shahm’s mind. “You remind me of one of my parents,” she answered. “He would not believe things set out before his eyes only because they opposed some old concepts in his mind.”
“One of your what?” Shahm was interested in spite of himself, she could see that, and she opened her mind for him to have a glimpse at some human relationships — a family, for instance.
“But that’s obscene!” There was an obvious panic and revulsion in his mind, and she quickly withdrew.
“That’s our way of reproduction,” she commented.
“I have no interest in those things; I even avoid Soul-mating, usually, and you’re talking about mating in body? It’s unacceptable! But enough of these things — I want to know more about that shape you call spaceship. How does it work? And that space thing — I don’t quite understand the idea.”
Leshem gave Shahm a short, basic lesson in astronomy, and the man was astonished at the thought of a world beyond his own, beyond the three suns that had created it. But this time he kept silent in order to learn as much as possible.
“And the place you’ve come from is very different from Lunari, you say?”
“Here is Nan, she is the expert. You’d best learn about it from her,” Leshem pointed out.
It was Nan’s turn to open her mind, to reveal to the man from Lunari what Earth looked like, show him pictures of incredible variety: blue sky with white and gray clouds; mountains and valleys of different kinds of soil; white snow, gray rocks, blue seas and running water; green plants and colorful blossoms, and animals of all shapes and kinds... He felt her longings and love for the place she knew she would never see again except in her mind, or in the computer’s simulations.
“Why, then, did you leave that place?” his question was written on the screen.
Nan and Leshem exchanged looks. “It’s a very long story, but there was fear of Earth’s getting overcrowded again — the cause of the total devastation before we had created our brand new society. Space travel is one way of avoiding it, and we had a vision of building a new life in a different place.”
“No, that was an accident. We were going to colonize a new planet, on which we could live and explore, learn new things. We never expected to land on anything like Lunari!”
“How did it happen, then? With the three suns surrounding it, I should think our planet would be virtually impenetrable.”
“We don’t exactly know what happened,” Leshem answered. “We lost control of the ship for a very short time, and maybe some kind of particle storm created a wormhole, which swept us into it, led us here and dropped us on to the planet’s ground. However it happened, we were left stranded, not being able to find any way out...”
“A wormhole?” He pondered. “There is so much for me to learn — I hadn’t expected anything so new, so unfamiliar, at my time of life...”
* * *
Lilit contacted Oul without bothering with a terminal. “Did you also think we should have a general meeting?”
“I’ll get my people to gather by the Controller; I think it’s time for it to open up and for them to familiarize themselves with the world outside. Who knows? With our joined forces, we might even find a way out...”
The nine occupants of the spaceship gathered in the common room; a few terminals were disconnected from various areas on the ship and put there for the convenience of the general conversation.
Lilit herself — Chief Councilor on Earth and leader of the nine travelers, did not bother to use a monitor, resorting to her strong telepathic ability. The people mostly taking part in the discussion were Nogah, Lyish, and Leshem; Nan, Ziv and Ofer occasionally added their ideas, usually when asked to do so; Mira and Ben, both reticent by nature, expressed themselves only on rare occasions, when prompted by Lilit.
* * *
For the same purpose Oul called Zohr, Gahn, Nour, Kwl and Shahm, who had already been in contact with some of the Earth people. Other people from Lunari were added to the conference and to the task in hand: Neif, a male technician specializing in the conversion of Lunari’s basic rock into the various products used by its people; and Fawr, a female psychologist.
Having teleported themselves, the eight people of Lunari gathered at the secluded place where the Controller was situated. Everyone knew where that was, but the ban on approaching it was held, not by the physical power of strong fences or magnetic fields, but by the mental force of the Ancestors’ wish.
Even Oul, who had conducted many talks with the Controlling Computer of Lunari through a terminal, was overwhelmed when seeing it for the first time. Unlike any other construction on Lunari, the Controller was an enormous square structure, very solid in its appearance, a perfect cube the size of a tall building, with no opening or a possible access anywhere.
“Why is it this shape?” Ziv burst out uncharacteristically, offended by it as a professional user of computers. Soon enough, however, it was clear that these means were unnecessary to the telepathic Lunaris.
“Ah!” Lilit uttered.
“What is it?” Leshem asked.
“There, look at the monitors here,” Lyish said, starting to read: “The Controller’s protection against unauthorized approach was created at a certain period in Lunari history, when the people found it hard to understand answers to their questions, both about their previous history and about the outer world beyond the three suns.”
“We never meant the main computer to look like that!” Leshem exclaimed.
“It must have happened when the newly developed human race was much more removed from the way we are now,” Lilit said.
“It’s completely contrary to the general idea of an open, direct society with no secrets to inhibit it,” Nogah complained.
“She is right, Oul,” Gahn agreed on the planet’s side. “We must try to do without all these secrets kept by the Controller, which I see as very harmful to our society.”
“Controller, what do you have to say?” Oul turned directly to the computer itself.
“This is the right time for opening up,” the Controller’s reply appeared, both in shapes and colors in the minds of the Lunari people, and in words and sentences on the monitors of the spaceship. “Lunari’s society has reached the point in its development when opening up the computer will be more beneficent than harmful.”
“It will take some believing by our people,” Shahm’s doubtful answer was transmitted and received by his people as a string of short yellow lines with interspersed orange dots, while put in words on the other side.
“It will be incorporated in the Education program for all youngsters straight out of the incubator,” Oul said decisively. “As for the adults, they will have to undergo special guidance about the new concepts. In the meantime, as we are all here and this is going to be the final meeting between us and our ancestors, let’s get down to the business of exchanging all the information necessary for both our groups.”
Both leaders then presented their groups of specialists to each other. “The information about genetic engineering will be at once transferred from the Controller to the spaceship’s computer,” Oul announced. “You’ll be in charge of it, Kwl, working with Lyish.
“Neif will work with Nan, Leshem and Ben on producing energy from Lunari’s ground, and on using the material for creating our bodies in order to make it possible to live in the sterile environment of Lunari.”
Lilit added, “Ziv will work with Nour and Shahm on the mathematical aspect, building programs that will enable the work of the computer.”
“The rest of us,” added Oul, “will have to work on the improvement of Lunari’s society, with all its sides of mental existence — both personal and social expressions and relationships.”
* * *
Some time afterward, Oul’s comment appeared in Lilit’s mind, “As our existence today proves the success of the technical aspect of the mission, I hope the mental side of our existence will also change, with the help of the good advice of your people.”
“I am glad I had a chance to see the result of our efforts,” Lilit replied. “not everyone can meet their descendants in such a way, having been dead for such a long time...”
“Time has no real meaning on Lunari, you know,” Oul explained. “Without the Controller’s counting, we’d have no idea of it.”
“I am certainly beginning to get the feeling of timelessness,” Lilit agreed. “Since we landed here — no, actually, since we left Earth, but then we were still expecting to reach a new planet, with its own time markings; these may have been different from those of Earth, but still well felt... The alternation of days and nights, the changes of seasons, the different positions of the astronomical bodies and the evidence of growing old — all these form the basis of our culture on Earth. I can’t imagine a culture without the basic concept of Time, either in its circular, cyclic form, or as a linear phenomenon.”
“Seasons, days and nights... the idea of endless change is so hard to grasp — periods of darkness, of atmospheric changes,” Oul replied. “There’s so much for us to learn...”
“The Controller is a wonderful means for that purpose. The ship’s computer contains an enormous body of knowledge about Earth, which, hopefully, you’ll be able to absorb and understand now.”
“It will cause an upheaval in our society; especially, when people find out there is no way for us to change our own conditions, or to leave this place and go somewhere else where changes are more common.”
“You know,” Lilit pondered, “I think Ziv and Nour, together with Leshem and Shahm and with the help of the Controller, might even find a way for you to leave Lunari and look for other places in the Universe, if you wish to do so. We never had such a collection of talents, you know, and the computer has had all these generations to look for an answer. Perhaps it has found something, somewhere...”
“Lilit, you’re frightening me. Such an openness, such wide thinking — I am not used to it...”
“I shall never know if this idea is to be realized, though.” Lilit sighed. “But you may see the very beginning of it...”
Copyright © 2009 by Tala Bar