13 May 2011

The War of the Artilect: Chapter 18

Posted by joncooper

The Stryker family was enjoying a late dinner in their spacious home on Tonina. Laura, Richard, and Amanda Stryker were seated in an enormous dining rooms. A large fireplace occupied most of the far wall, and the rest of the walls were covered in elegant tapestries that depicted nature scenes from distant corners of the planet. Spread out on the mahogany table before them was a veritable feast. At Amanda’s request Laura had cooked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and wheat rolls – not to mention the other vegetables and desserts that filled the table.

“This is an amazing dinner!” Richard commented, as he helped himself to another slice of turkey. “I haven’t seen a meal like this since we left Mars. You’ve really outdone yourself, dear!”

“Well, it is Thanksgiving,” his wife replied. “I think we have a lot to be thankful for this year.”

“It is?” Richard asked. “But today’s Friday, isn’t it? Isn’t Thanksgiving always on a Thursday?”

“We are one day late,” Amanda admitted. “In 7239 Thanksgiving actually falls on November 24th, not the 25th. But since we were kind of busy yesterday I thought it would be ok to celebrate it now.”

“I don’t think anyone will mind,” Richard agreed, smiling. “And we do have a lot to be thankful for. We all made it to the future safe and sound, and the Artilect’s war against the swarms was successful. The people of Tau Ceti have been freed from a menace that has imprisoned them for thousands of years. The future looks very bright for all of us.”

“I just wish Amy was here,” Laura replied. “I know she can’t use telepresence to share this meal with us, but I still miss her. It’s not the same, celebrating Thanksgiving without her.”

“I know,” Richard agreed. “I miss her too. I did invite her but she’s still bitter about being kept away. I think her mood will improve once she’s allowed to return home to Tonina.”

“When will that be?” Amanda asked.

“Just a few more days,” Richard replied. “We just need to make sure that the swarms are really gone. If nothing happens over the weekend then I think it would be safe to allow her to return on Monday.”

“I guess that’s not too long,” Amanda conceded. “But I have a feeling it will seem like an eternity to Amy.”

Richard sighed. “I just don’t understand why this upsets her so much! She’s been more than welcome to use telepresence to be with us here. I realize she can’t be here in person, but is there really that much difference?”

“I think there is to her, dear,” Laura replied.

There was silence for a few moments, then Amanda spoke up. “So what happens after Amy gets back? Are we going to start moving people from Xanthe to Tonina?”

“I guess that will be up to them,” Richard replied. “It sounds like you did an admirable job of restoring their home world. They may want to stay there. It is their home, after all.”

“But what about Tonina?” Amy asked. “What about all these other worlds? Are they just going to stay empty?”

“Oh, there’s plenty of time for that,” her father said. “These planets aren’t going to go anywhere. As Tau Ceti rebuilds they will eventually come to the point where they’ll have enough people to begin settling in other places as well. These stars will be here when they need them.”

“But are we sure their population is going to grow?” Laura asked. “Aren’t they too old to have children?”

“I’m sure the Artilect could do something about that,” Richard said. “There must be some way he could help them.”

“But they’re so old!” Laura replied. “They’ve been alone in their pods for such a long time. It’s going to be so hard for them.”

“I know,” Richard agreed. “I know. It is going to be hard, but the future of mankind depends on it. All we can do is offer whatever help we can.”

“What if they don’t want our help?” Amanda asked.

“Then I don’t know what we’ll do,” Richard replied. “But I’m sure that something good is going to come out of all this. I can’t imagine that God brought us all the way to the future just so we could watch mankind die. There’s got to be a reason for all of this. No, I think everything will work out, one way or another. We’ll just wait until Monday and take it from there.”

* * * * *


Captain Max found Jones sitting on a park bench in the heart of La Venta. Twelve square blocks of the sprawling city had been set aside as a recreational area, with trees, a pond, benches, swings, and a large play area for children. The area had been designed to offer a pleasant place of relaxation. Since the metropolis had no citizens, however, it remained empty. Jones was the only one that visited the park. He would often come there in the evenings and watch the sun set over the horizon.

The captain sat down beside him. “You missed dinner,” he said.

Jones nodded. “The Strykers celebrated Thanksgiving this evening.”

“I didn’t know that,” the captain remarked. “We should have joined them! I bet Laura fixed a first-class dinner. She’s good at that, you know. Always fixes it by hand, too – even now. I never really understood that. She doesn’t have to work so hard at it, but she does.”

“It gives what she does meaning,” Jones replied. “If you work hard for something then you tend to value it more. There is nothing special about making a dinner appear from nowhere by snapping your fingers. But making one by hand, putting time and love and care into it, is different. That gives the gift a meaning that it otherwise would not have had.”

“But it’s not necessary,” Captain Max objected.

Jones smiled. “For that matter, sir, what is necessary? Now that the swarms are gone, have you found anything meaningful to do with your time?”

“Well, you know, I’m still trying to get used to this place. I’m sure that something is necessary! As I see it, the problem is that we’ve been dumped into the future without growing into it. We just don’t know how to use the tools that we’ve been given.”

“Life is about overcoming challenges,” Jones said. “If there are no challenges or obstacles to overcome then there can be no growth. That is the real question: where do we go from here?”

“You worry too much,” Captain Max commented. “I’m sure things will change after the survivors move here. That in itself is going to be filled with challenges.”

Jones looked off into the distance. The sun had set, and the stars were coming out. Off in the distance he could hear a bird softly coo. Despite the fact that he was in the heart of an enormous city, the only sounds he could hear were those of wildlife.

“It’s eerie, isn’t it?” Jones asked. “La Venta is a huge city, and yet it’s so quiet and still.”

“It’s too quiet, if you ask me. That’s why I don’t come here. It feels like something terrible happened and everyone died.”

“That’s because something terrible did happen and everyone did die. If the swarms had not killed everyone then there might be people here right now. In fact, had that happened it may not have been necessary to bring us into the future at all.”

“But the survivors are left,” Captain Max pointed out. “They’ll be here soon. Then this place will start to hum with life.”

Jones shook his head. “They will never come here. This is no life for them, sir. In fact, I’m not convinced this is a good life for anyone. There may come a day when mankind will be mature enough to handle this level of wealth and ease, but I do not believe that time is here yet. Our hearts are too corrupt to handle this much power.”

“You’re in a cheerful mood tonight,” Captain Max remarked. “In fact, all you’ve had to say for the past week has been negative! Don’t you have any good thoughts to share?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Jones replied. “You’re quite right. But there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. I just don’t think we’ve gotten to the dancing part yet.”

“But the swarms are gone! Why, if that’s not something to dance about then I don’t know what is.”

Jones shook his head. “The people of Xanthe have made their choices, sir, and we can’t save them from them. We were brought here to give them one last chance and we’ve done that. The rest is up to Amy.”

“What do you mean?”

“The time of our departure is at hand,” Jones said quietly. “We’ve fought the good fight, and it’s very nearly time for us to go. Our part in this is done.”

“That’s not possible! I know you have the gift of foresight, but you’ve got to realize that we don’t even have an opponent anymore. Even if we did there’s no way the Artilect could lose. Nothing in this galaxy can begin to compare with him.”

Jones rose to his feet. “Believe what you want, sir, but remember what that girl told you back in Tikal. We can’t save the survivors from their choices, but our efforts are not in vain. The Lord has prepared a better country for us that lies beyond the farthest star. Our journey there has been delayed but that delay will not last forever.”

“I know,” Captain Max said. “We all should have died back in 1867. I know we’ve been given more time. But you have to understand, I’m in no hurry to die.”

“That’s not on the table, sir,” Jones replied. “After all, Jesus Himself said that ‘whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die’. He holds the keys of hell and death, and He has given everlasting life to all who believe on Him. What lies in our future is a call from our Lord to go to the home that we were created for but have never seen. It’s not a bad thing, sir; I think you’ll like it.”

Captain Max sighed. “And when is all this supposed to happen?”

“I’m not sure,” Jones replied.

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