Return of the Astrolance
©2020 Vernon Miles Kerr, vernonmileskerr.com writersclass.net
This post is a view into the writing process, latest edits in blue text. VMK
A perfect society with a perfect history is impacted by shocking news. Their Holy Book, “The Hitex” — which describes “People’s” origin as having been birthed from” Planet” by ” Creator,” fully civilized — is brought into question, when a gigantic cave is found with artifacts indicating long occupation by People and much preparation for coming to the surface.
Even worse, a few years later, astronomers report an object approaching Planet at near light-speed. Doppler-distorted electro-magnetic messages in a strange code are received from the object. This too, belies Hitex, since Hitex states that People are Creator’s sole children in “Universe.”
When the code is broken and some sense made of the senders’ message it is determined that both “Strangers”, and People, having been faced with Earth’s imminent nuclear destruction had argued two competing methods for trying to save a remnant of humanity: People, using the method of 10,000 years in underground cities, and Strangers, setting off in a near-light-speed needle in a circular path that should have brought them back to Earth in 10,000 years, with only decades of elapsed-time on board. The Strangers’ solution, using the craft, called The Astrolance, was good in theory, but the course’s unplanned passing near an obstacle, a dark-matter black hole, drastically exapands time-dilation to 100,000 years.
Now, Planet’s political and religious question becomes, what to do with the savages from the 21st Century? How to help them, yet still preserve respect for Hitex and its formula for a perfect world? Before this quandary is solved near catastrophe occurs for both Stangers and People.
Renselr stood, barefoot as always, on the smooth alabaster veranda of his school, looking out over the radiating greens and yellows of forest and field which stretched to the horizon, far below. Normally, the comparison of the cool, white stone with the mollifying, warm morning air set him into a meditative state — but not today.
If this is what the Hitex refers to as “anguish,” I must be feeling it.
He frowned, set his jaw, as he absent-mindedly gathered and released the sash of his tokah in both hands, squeezing wrinkles into it, smoothing them out, squeezing again.
Why was I chosen to bear this burden? What am I going to tell them? How do I start? Why me? Rulers of Fate, oh why me?
The sky in the East grew lighter. Soon, Star would be breaching the horizon, and soon thereafter, his students would be arriving from the valley, below, meandering, chatting giggling, straggling, up the coiling marble walkway, as always. They, and his Holoviewers around the planet, would have to be told. He had prepared his notes. — scrupulously and agonizingly. But still …
Those students present and those remotely-present were like his own children. Nearly a century before, he had been granted authority over the education of potential adults. Each year’s harvest of infants were placed in nursery groups, each with a surrogate mother for five years. After that, they became Renselr’s charges, until they had passed a dozen years of age. On that milestone, Renselr graduated the brightest out to the Academy or to the School of Technology. The remainder went to Crafts. Renselr’s having charge of the most formative of Planet’s children was a responsibility he took seriously, but he never considered it a burden, until now. How to tell nearly a million students that the nexus of all education, the Hitex, contained errors? The Solons would take care of Planet’s adults, but the children had to be prepared first.
Renslr had decided on a timed release of information, in stages. But, the Solons had given him only limited time to accomplish this. The adult supervisors in the dormitories would be getting a preview after school, each day. Renselr knew that rumors would spread from there, but the complete version of the news would follow so closely, rumors wouldn’t matter
Not much sleep last night. Not much in the past 14 nights, since they unloaded this cargo on me.
It was the downside of being the planet’s Father-pedant figure: Public proclamations of the Scholastic Assembly of Archaeology and Paleontology (SAAP.)
Rensler had been disgusted with the SAAP. There seemed to be some dark current of conspiracy in their digging around. They seemed to be subtilely implying, within academic circles, that each new shard of strange glass or seemingly artificially-formed metal, hinted at previous intelligent life on Planet. They wouldn’t come right out and say it — that would be blasphemy against Hitex, which teaches that all of People’s history began within the womb of Planet and somewhere Planet gave birth to People, fully formed, fully clothed, fully possessed of Hitex in the form of a spoken saga. Later, People had devised the method of making marks on fabric and later, paper, which represented words, and Hitex was given physical form.
Trauma had accompanied each of these eked-out “Updatings” to planetary philosophy — for the ninety seasons Resnselr had been tasked to it. Long, long ago, many Father-pedants ago, SAAP was already whittling away the ancient myth of the People’s origins, (the myth of the spontaneous birth of the thousands of the Initial People from the womb of Mother Planet.) The myth had not been rejected, merely modified. The myth gave the People a sense of order, a sense of purpose. The Great Creator, creator of Mother Planet, had ordained that she give birth to the People as fully prepared to dress her surface, to groom her. The People were delivered with the moral-imperative, fully developed and with primitive tools in their hands.
“Go, prosper, her thunder spoke. Dress my surface, coax the tiny buds and leaves from the cracks of rock. Build cities, explore Mother Planet, then explore the neighboring planets.”
These were the words of the Hitex. The words of truth. The miracle of the People’s spontaneous creation as a species. Morally complete, prepared with tools and accompanied by the their domestic animals.
Now, how do I tell them there was no such miracle?
He morosely watched the Gardeners and Crafts people far below, filing out of the ground floor, headed for their assigned husbandries. They would clear the under brush, transplant seedings, maintain cobblestone paths, perhaps lunch by a babbling stream — content in the knowledge that Mother Planet was pleased. A few would nap through the apex of Star’s journey through the sky — others would merely enjoy the shade, reciting to each other sayings from the Hitex.
The brightening sky began silhouetting other spiral towers on the horizon as Renselr stared blankly at the continual stream of air-conveyances (chariots, barges, and passenger-liners) silently following their appointed paths, far above the clouds. Refocusing, he tried to pull-together all of the pieces of these recent revelations.
An earthquake had uncovered an opening from which, it was argued, the Initial People might have emerged from Mother Planet. Until now, “archaeology” was only involved with collecting (and arguing about) mysterious shards of melted glass, a few tiny pieces of petrified bone, and seemingly “manufactured” chunks of hard minerals. If these were artifacts, from some prior intelligent species, then Hitex was false, or at a minimum, incomplete. SAAP had always throttled and impeded these announcements, giving only what was necessary to keep the trauma to a slow drip.
SAAP had secretly briefed Renselr, only weeks before, that the opening was sealed by the same manufactured mineral substance as those previously gathered chunks. If this were the womb of Mother Planet the Initial People must have wanted to hide something. Breaking through the mineral substance, the archeologists discovered metal doors, and within the doors, a cave. The cave was too vast to explore, but the first room an anti-room more vast that an air-barge hangar, was littered with cast-off containers, what appeared to be rotting clothing of some sort, and a few mysterious metal implements. Whatever the past of the progenitors, they wanted to leave it behind — forever.