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Thursday, 2016-12-08, 2:59 AM
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CLEAR UNDERSTANDING

Redwing

Short Sci-Fi Stories

    An eerie light filled the bay below as the moon hung powerless in the darkened sky. Above on the cliffs alone I waited; I knew they’d be coming soon for I’d seen them before. I’d seen their ugly play unfurl a thousand times, and tonight I would silence them forever.
     Out to sea their prey approached. With mighty sails taut against the wind she laboured. Each hold lay full of trade to foreign lands, though wreckers spoil it would soon become; but not this night.
     High amidst the rigging , lookouts hailed their warnings. Each passing port or light, a sign to navigation. Waves crashed against the bow exploding skywards with the gale. "Padstow Light", hailed the forward lookout, though mists and darkness would deceive.
     Ashore and alone no longer, the bait was set. With carts assembled, their fires would soon be lit and the lives of those who held their treasure, extinguished. All blades were sheathed, lest the moon should touch their steel and forewarn the ship.
     Among their preparations I walked. They couldn’t see me as I was not really there in the sense that they were. I searched each face for signs of fear; there was none.
     In all the thirty souls I’d never seen such evil. If they’d toiled in the fields with such vigour as they showed this night, or in some other worthy trade, the lives aboard the vessel they’d wreck would be saved. But these men were pawns of the devil himself, and their purposes were not in needing of an honest trade.
     Ahead of where I stood, and in the direction to which I walked, stood two of the men. One gazed seaward, whilst the other boasted of how he’d use the riches they sought. Now was the time for me to feed upon the demise of such hatred.
     I ran full of hatred myself now towards them. There was no sound or crumpling of grass as I pounded closer and closer. Targeting the boastful creature with his back to the cliffs, I launched myself skyward. Both feet struck together on the mans chest. Backwards he flew to his death below in winded silence as I fell unseen to the space where he’d stood.
     His companion stood motionless. Then a new expression touched his face as he burned in the wide beam laser I held towards him. It was too late for a face full of fear and in want of mercy to save him now; far too late.
     Raising myself on one elbow I peered into the darkness. Following their sounds, my eyes fell upon the shadows of the main group as they finalised their plans, "There", cried an observer, "There she is by the headland".
     An inaudible gasp heralded the full majesty of the rigs sails as she came into view. Instantly fires were lit with the largest at first shielded and then not, to simulate the Padstow light.
     Aboard ship the lookouts would not yet have witnessed the deception, for the vessel they had lured onto an altered heading was not their intended prey.
     In towards the shore she turned, fooling those who would fool. Copied in every detail from the real vessel ten miles astern; shoreward sailed my holographic decoy.
     How they busied themselves. Small groups scurried down the rocks now to the seas edge. Others remained with the fires to maintain the deception. Others still, made ready the small vessels with which they would ferry their contraband from the stricken vessel to the shore.
     Very soon now they knew the ship would strike the rocks hidden by the tide in the middle of the bay. The crew, unprepared and shocked, would then fall easy victims to their ready hatred.
     On she sailed, surely just feet away now from the mortal blow. On and on they waited, anxious to have not misread the tide.
     Voices began to chatter but were silenced by the leading hand. Without incident the vessel had begun to glide over and through where the rocks should have been. Then, completely unimpaired, she rode along the beach passing through the dunes and into the cliff like a ghost vessel disappearing.
     For the first time in all of their lives they knew the bitter taste of fear. Oars began clawing at the ocean in a bid for the shore and to be away from there.
     Slowly at first the small boats turned, but soon gained speed as rhythm and nerve returned. Surely on towards the beach they strove, oblivious to their role in this their last day.
     On shore and waiting were the virtual holographic counterparts of the entire ships crew of the ghost vessel. They’d been waiting forever. Forty-two virtual souls stood ready, and would close this darkest of all chapters for all time.
     Into the sand dug the devils boats and into the surf ran their cargoes. Upwards into the dunes they fled seeking the cliff path and the fields beyond.
     A single muted scream suddenly filled the night, and then another; they stopped. Ahead in the shadows but now emerging into the light of the moon, was the ghost crew. Cutlasses and knives as tools of a trade they knew were drawn and used.
     Blow after mortal blow was struck, but it was only the blood of the wreckers that stained the sand below. And soon it was only the screams of the gulls that remained to haunt the bay.
     In the silence now above on the cliffs I could see her sails. I continued to watch this, her first un-molested passage ,for an hour, until she’d gone.
     At length, as the moon grew darker and the air still cooler, I left. Then with a single step the portal had given me Boudica (Bodicia).
     Eighteen centuries back and two hundred miles northeast I’d travelled in just one second. Immediately I saw her standing there before me, but I as always could not be seen. She was addressing her generals in a language quite beyond me, though the message was clear.
     She was a stunningly beautiful woman, with eyes of steel that gave strength to her words and courage to her men. Her force vastly outnumbered the Romans today, but their arms and equipment were no match to those of the enemy.
     Today would be their very last as hundreds and thousands of Boudice’s force would be wantonly slaughtered. Even with the battle won the Romans would continue with their annialation, almost to the last man.
     I’d decided however that today should have a different outcome. And to effect those changes I’d acquired a number of Chieftain battle tanks along with some heavy artillery to help tip the scales in Boudica’s favour.
     Of course the gun crews wouldn't know of their involvement, I’d be phasing them in and out of the day from manoeuvres they were on in another time and place. To them the fields they drove through would appear empty and the targets they destroyed would not be Roman Legions, but lifeless markers and automated roving drones.
     A calm fell over the morning. Light rain had given way to thinning cloud as the sun began to lift a mist that hung above the gently rolling landscape. Silence and tranquillity was common before the large battles I’d observed, and seemed somehow respectful of those about to die.
     Before me stood an enormous sea of troops that formed Boudica’s army. From one horizon to the other they waited poised and ready. If I had been Roman that day you wouldn’t have seen me for dust.
     But these were different times. Life here was always short and bloody. I had an enormous respect for the courage shown by such armies as these. Death and whatever lay beyond, was faced with real metal, almost as if to cheat the creator by showing no fear of mutilation or extinction.
    But fear there was. Half a mile distant, now shining in the fading mists, stood theRomans. Their ranks also spread across the meadow and looked like the giant wings of a bird of prey. Tens upon tens of thousands of men in organised columns of chariots, cavalry and infantry.
     Although numbering only about one sixth the force of Boudica’s, the Roman army was highly mechanised. Boudica though, having fought and thwarted many a superior Roman force, would today herself be slain and silenced forever amidst the strategy’s of fate.
     Both sides had planned and re-planned the encounter. War even this far back had developed into an art form. A battle was a living thing changing as it unfurled with the victor needing to utilise extraordinary levels of insight, courage and commitment.
     As the sun inched towards its noon position tensions in the air solidified. Rather serenely, rabbits played in the space between the armies oblivious to the occasion. A distant oak caught in a sudden gust of wind, seemed to turn as if to flee the impending holocaust.
     From her chariot, Boudica seemed to look right through my eyes and into my soul. Then with nod and raised blade, she commenced the proceedings.
     First the sound of the axles, and then the sight of moving chariots as row after row moved along their pre-determined paths. Movement in the ranks of the Romans mirrored their enemy’s advances, and further subtle strategies gave the whole spectre the look of a well-choreographed dance of death.
     To the west as to the east a cunning Roman plot developed. Countermeasures were deployed as the minutes before the first blow became seconds, and then exploded into the full fury of a day who’s memory would last forever.
     I’d decided to intervene early to save as many souls as possible. Originally my desire was to lay waste to the entire Roman force here, but the splendour of their ranks and the order they sought, began to soften my approach.
    The carnage about to ensue, I fully understood, was part of the human psyche. It was occasions when a collective or group campaign went beyond simple aggression and into wholesale madness, that I felt driven to interfere.
     The last hours of this battle would witness a clean up exercise of monumental proportions. This collective Roman madness would lead to a complete eradication of any survivors of the vanquished force that opposed them, and was a far cry from the dizzy heights of civilisation of which they were capable.
     Just thinking about the endgame in today’s battle, against the glory of its opening moves, both angered and saddened me. Soon I began to realise that the same reasons that had bought me here, would also prevent me from any violent interference.
     My next port of call would present me with the same dilemma. I’d planned to step into Scotland at around the year twelve ninety-seven and foil Edward the firsts battle with the Scottish martyr William Wallace. Wallace’s cause was of course just, but the rank and file troops of the English army were just as much pawns as he.
     For me to wipe out innocent pressed-ganged troops, be they Scottish, English or Roman, would be a mistake. But to ignore them mindlessly slaughtering each other was no solution either.
     If only I could frighten them off somehow by filling their hearts with a greater dread than death itself. I knew none of these men or women feared death in the way modern men did. Below as the battle raged this was more than evident. They were a different breed with different ideas and expectations.
     Fear for these people lay in the values of right and wrong before God and the Devil. If I could impress upon them that the wrath of either their god or his alter ego Satan, was about to place judgement on them, they might just turn and run.
    When finished here I’d have been stepping through the portal to join William Wallace. Now in an attempt to solve my dilemma, instead of my travelling to twelve ninety-seven, I would bring twelve ninety-seven here.
     Opening the portal wide, I super imposed the bleak moorlands of Scotland over the kinder meadows of mid England. In just one second the two were joined. Above in the skies which were both clear and heavy, I began to sketch the face of the devil himself.
     Slowly the tapestry of the skies altered into an awesome witness. From horizon to horizon his gaze would soon solidify.
     Fast approaching now from the northwest, the Scots prepared to stand and meet the English. The English, driven by a greater fear of their generals than that of mutilation in battle, responded.
     The portal had overlaid the epicentre of both battles to occupy the same space. Now, as the battle of two sides became the battle of four sides, confusion reigned.
     Wallace, both travelled and well read, would recognise the Roman forces from history. Likewise the leaders of the English troops would easily identify their banners and armour. Soon, especially amongst the infantries as they clashed, confusion would turn to fear and eventually I hoped, flight.
     From all points on the compass, with coloured faces and tunics they ran. Flooding down the valleys to form a boiling multi-cultured cauldron of hate and fear. Above, the scene was set as the unmistakeable form of Satan began to see and to be seen.
     To the blades of the Scots the Romans were ghosts and could not be killed. Nor could the Romans injure the Scots or Englishman his ancestors.
     As if at once, thousands of eyes seemed to fall skyward together; and then tens of thousands. Similarly, all heads slowly turned to the ghostly intruders within their own ranks and an eerie silence fell like a blanket over the entire field.
    Suddenly a single scream shattered the moment. Others soon joined the solitary voice as panic began to mobilise frozen limbs into flight. Frantically now they fought to escape this day as fast as they could in the directions from which they’d arrived.
     On the flanks of each retreat, bemused generals remained speechless as they themselves began to leave. The addition of thunder and lightning to my devils cloud cover further hastened the evacuation.
     On my flank once again Boudica seemed to acknowledge my presence. Launching a very questioning smile directly at me, she then turned to leave unhurriedly. That she could see me and perhaps knew some of my intentions was now beyond doubt; but how.
     Slowly as the minutes passed the fields below regained their tranquillity, and those lying dead at last were at peace. I knew the armies would reform soon, and resigning myself to this reality, I closed the portals to separate the centuries and let the skies clear.
     I didn’t go with the Scots as planned, there was nothing I could do. Instead I took two steps forward passing through another portal into the year nineteen thirty-nine.
     The office was empty except for one man. On the table was a loaded luger pistol. The man gazed ahead with unfocused eyes though his mind was clearly very focused on plans and schemes.
     Silent and invisible I approached the seated figure and clasped the pistol. He rose with a start as I pulled the trigger and then fell heavily forward to the desk. His blood began to encircle a signature on a document he’d authorised. I read the name aloud, "Adolph Hitler", and left.
     A far cry now from earthly conflict. I walked alone on the smooth ball bearing like surface of an alien world. Above, pinpoints of light revealed unfamiliar constellations peering through an amber dusk-light as the planet spun nightward.
    The surface of this world stretched to every horizon without feature except for the changing colours of the skies it reflected. There was no wind or feeling of temperature and no sounds, not even of my own footsteps.
     The seasons and day length were Earth like, but no inhabitants had ever existed here to mark the passage of time or shape the history of this place.
     This was the template of the Gods, a virtual planet used as a pattern in the construction of Earth like worlds prior to their being allocated a host solar system.
     The engineers who used this planet, resided in and were masters of a cluster of galaxies. They didn’t have a name or reference, as such tags were meaningless within the non-space of their existence. Each were individuals in the truest sense, yet communications between them formed a oneness of perfect intimacy.
     They formed and populated worlds with all types of biological and androidal life forms. Inside each of the billions of their created species they implanted the essence of themselves; like a soul.
     Each soul lived in ignorance of its parenthood and strove afresh through blinkered eyes to re-discover its beginnings. Inside each tortured mortal soul burned a passion to learn and to survive.
     Outside, the creators watched. They watched and learned as the blind led the blind. It was the sum of the parts being less than the sum of the total that drove the gods. They’d been responsible for the beginnings of many places in their own galaxies, but were now moving further and further out in their quest for knowledge, power and experience.
     The shear scale and ethics of the operation were beyond my civilisations ability to comprehend, but I’d been asked to investigate and so investigate I would.
     The globe upon which I stood was imperfect. Deep within its structure lay fundamental errors in the uniformity of its mass. As a pattern for planets this inevitably led to unstable offspring, which would in turn result in worlds prone to earthquakes and volcanoes.
     My job here was to repair the errors so that the planets produced were perfect and suffered no internal stresses or fault lines. It wasn’t clear why I should perform this solitary role so I could only assume it to be part of a broader plan.
     Night had now fallen on the mirror planet but something else had changed; something new. Slowly I became aware of a faint and very high-pitched sound, and the usually weather less globe had now developed a light but warm breeze.
     Peering into the darkness I saw landscapes developing and clouds were forming above. Under foot, soil and then grass appeared along with a dank woody scent as a forest evolved around me.
     Mists rose above a lake glowing eerily in the moonless though star filled night. Birdsong faded in with the sounds of other life hidden in the forest. The trees of the forest itself breathed and hissed in the quickening breeze.
     The crack of a fallen twig and the sigh of displaced undergrowth revealed the presence of a larger beast. The lake at first still, now lapped audibly against its muddy banks and expanding circles on the surface announced the arrival of fish within its depths.
     Feeling the sudden desire to swim, I lowered myself into the cool waters and launched myself from the shore. Spinning around I lay motionless, floating on my back gazing up at the night sky.
     Suddenly with a thump I’d fallen to the bottom of where the lake had been. Opening my eyes I saw that all of the things that had been created were now gone and that I was back on the surface of the barren mirror planet.
     I’d just witnessed the formation of a new world. I had no idea of course where it would be destined for, but its spontaneous evolution around me on the pattern of the mirror planet had been a truly spectacular experience.
     I wondered how long it might be before another planet began to form, and was eager to see what differences there might be in the next "Genesis Event".
     To locate and rectify the crust anomalies would require me to study at least two more planetary formations. Having seen one though, to restrict myself to only one or two repeats of that seemed a little harsh.
     Here it was again. The high-pitched sound that pre-empted an evolution was stronger this time, almost deafening. Masses of water began swirling around my knees and shoulders snatching my feet from the ground.
     Around and around I span at the mercy of the rising currents. Faster and faster the waters rose until finally I lay becalmed on the surface of a huge tropical ocean.
     An alien sun burst through velvet skies to burn my skin and warm the ocean around me. Remembering the thump on my back as the lake had vanished, I thought it wise this time to assume weightlessness.
     Further increasing my mass to positive weightlessness I began to hover at five metres above the oceans gentle swell. Then by altering the dynamics of my mass envelope, I gained forward motion in relation to the planetary field. For miles I sped effortlessly across the blur of an ocean planet below.
     In this extended evolution the pattern had produced a world having no landmasses at all. The subsequent development of life forms here would be at great variance to worlds spawning the norm of land and flight capable species. This world would indeed be a most fascinating experiment.
     Slowly as I pondered over its unique future, the world below me faded. At first the ocean appeared changed and then with increasing transparency it was gone. I was left soaring three miles high over the resumed silver pattern from which it had evolved.
     From this height the spectacle of the barren globe below seemed enhanced and colder somehow. I increased my rate of speed over its surface and climbed to sub orbital altitude where I relaxed, amidst though immune, to the joys and pain of the cosmos.
     From here I could see no less than five shiny moon patterns orbiting the planet below. The smallest was perhaps three thousand miles in diameter whilst the largest was around five thousand and therefore almost half the size of its parent.
     I assumed to permit greater diversity that some, all or none of the moons could be used in any given planetary evolution. I couldn’t imagine what use my correcting small deviations in the crust of the mother planet might be when she may be twisted and stretched by up to five large companion satellites.
     Changing direction and accelerating swiftly, I now observed the largest moon from a height of just five miles, Slowing dramatically then, almost to a stop, I could see that the surface was identical to the mirror planet.
     Passing into the night side of the moon with the planet obscured by its disc, I began to witness a third evolution. Looking ahead, two of the five moons were fading and then were gone. On the moon below me an atmosphere began to grow and lightning storms raged from horizon to horizon.
     The planet itself, which had now reappeared, was blue and gold with greens of every shade glistening in the sun through layered clouds. Every second saw the formation of a new mountain range or the birth of a new shoreline.
     Soon, as before, the whole system would be transferred to occupy a distant and predetermined space in this or another galaxy. All of these planetary generations were part of a massive development program that was operating on an almost universal scale.
     There it was again. I knew it could only be a matter of time before they found me. A jerk and then another on my shoulder as something tugged at me. I’d clearly been detected and was now being probed to see how I could be dealt with.
     An enormous wrench this time, throwing me into space some hundred thousand miles to a point between the planet and the moon I’d been orbiting. Time now I thought for a little evasive action and so dropped out of the systems time-space matrix.
     From this altered viewpoint the complete system stood still. The point in space I now occupied was an eternal non-event. For time to pass it must have a spacial dimension through which to measure the duration of an event. Having no dimensions, this my temporary home didn’t to all intents and purposed exist.
     I watched with interest as their detection system began to deduce my whereabouts. Firstly it surveyed all points in the neighbourhood looking for foreign matter. Then they or it repeated the exercise in all space-time realities. Very clever indeed I thought. There now, they had it.
     In the next instant the surveillance system tracking me also dropped out of the systems matrix to relocate into another zero space. I could now clearly see the device and could feel rather than see, that it was manned.
     Although both parties were able to look upon each other, as neither of us actually existed we could not physically interact. The feel of their appearance may have been deceptive as the image projected in essence was sub-etheric. My view of them was really the stuff of memory rather than the current reality. Here though, both of the words current and reality were in themselves variables.
     Slowly the moments of this the strangest of encounters passed by. Whatever their actual appearance may have been, the feeling most strongly given to my senses was that of data. Whilst they looked like biological creatures they felt modified with machine logic and functions.
     The most overriding impression was that of information. They could best be described as creatures made up of knowledge encapsulated and functioning within the fabric of space itself. With my presence clearly undesired here and my future intervention outlawed; I left.
     In contrast to zero space, I now found myself in all the glory of four-dimensional linear space. My speed although at many times the electromagnetic ceiling of light in real space, did not alter the real time image of galaxies as they sped by.
     That immortality and knowledge could have ever been viewed as a featureless plateau of ultimate boredom I will never understand. The boundless variety, beauty and scope of my civilisations horizons were endlessly breathtaking.
     The race I’d just encountered had in many respects a greater understanding of science than my own. I’d not been fully briefed on their objectives and had simply been sent to perform one task as part of a larger plan.
     I’d encountered many such advanced cultures and would continue to be amazed the further I travelled. Every cluster or single galaxy passing around me was full of groups of planets and systems working together. Some evolving worlds imagined themselves to be unique and a favourite pastime of mine was to enlighten them or to view others enlightening them.
     The evolutionary pattern of intelligent life would in general follow a similar plan irrespective of where or how it began. After the initial formation of a living multi-cellular organism, each species would rapidly progress towards a basic understanding of its environment.
     Then tools would develop to enable the alteration of the worlds in which they’d evolved and soon quite high levels of technology would appear. At this point many civilisations would burn out the worlds that had spawned them and others would simply kill each other off.
     Survivors of these first global hurdles would then meet with other survivors from neighbouring worlds only to continue running the gauntlet of greed and power in the greater market of near inter-stellar space. This phase, needless to say, often provided monumental displays in the arts of destruction and stupidity.
     Most races at around this stage in their growth would stumble upon the universal truth of multi-dimensionality.
     They would begin to understand that the theoretical paradox of space-time flexibility was in fact a reality.
     They would learn how to generate time gates and learn how to navigate eternity. Existence would no longer be tied to an individual’s body nor indeed would it be tied to a finite number of years.
     The irony in achieving omnipotence was finding out that one has always been so. The spark of life from its first moments of self-awareness is the soul. Souls can exist as trapped and blinkered prisoners within a multitude of vehicles. So far in my travels I’d encountered biological, electronic, bio-electronic, chemical and interstellar dust, all as shells containing individual or collective group souls.
     Further up the evolutionary tree there are also beings that reside as modulated frequencies upon the carrier waves of intergalactic radio emissions. Others still exist in the space between places. This is the place in which mass evacuating one universe must reside and is found within black hole singularities or upon the surface of masses with greater than light velocity.
     The number of souls is infinite and each is an individual part of the whole. They can exist and function entirely separately or they may join together in groups or as one. Every individual is immortal and cannot be altered or destroyed.
     Many philosophical attempts to understand this reality through the inadequate medium of the spoken or transmitted thought have been attempted. One such amusing paradox is:- "Nothing can truly be truly begun for to begin is to progress from a point which could not be regarded as a beginning. If nothing can begin and nothing can end, then that which has begun has not, and that which may end, by virtue of its beginnings, has ended before it’s begun".
    Below me now the galaxies began to take on a familiar shape. A large group of five slid past and there ahead were two that stood out like gateposts to my favourite destination.
    Passing through the gate revealed a sea of galaxies to the right edge of which lay my journeys end.
     Banking sharply to the right I began decelerating and entered the outer rim of this the most beautiful of galaxies. It had been named "The Warren" by its chief inhabitants because of its resemblance to the habitat of a creature native to their mother planet, namely the Earth. The rise and fall of star clusters in tunnel like formations, particularly from this vantage point, were strikingly similar to the rabbit’s warren.
     The humans of course were not native to this galaxy but had settled here some five hundred years before. On this trip, I’d not be visiting any of the thirty or so star systems that they now occupied, but would instead be staying on a heavenly planet called Ashei.
     The humans hereabouts were knowledgeable enough to know of my level of evolution and even provided a sub etheric air traffic control system for me and those like me.
     They had a control fixation which fascinated me and almost immediately I was greeted by their usual signal. "Welcome visitor, your designated number is RS231s42. Please forward your destination and acknowledge our system number".
     They had no idea who I might be and no means of probing my technologies, but knew that my passage through "Their" space didn’t represent a threat to any of their worlds. For my part any interference of their activities at this stage in their development could only be counter-productive.
    "RS231s42. En route to Ashei for stay of unknown duration", I dutifully replied. This destination was popular with my race and also with a number of other, "Eternals" as we were known.
     I’d passed this way perhaps ten times in the last two hundred years or so. My first visits had yielded designated numbers beginning "RS" and later visits saw the appearance of RS231 followed by an alpha and two numerics. This time however I’d been given the exact number as on my last trip; RS231s42. I can only assume that they’d begun to recognize some of the aspects of my substance.
     My last appearance here had been some twenty-eight years before. That time I’d stayed on planet for no less than thirty-nine years having married a native girl with which I stayed until she had passed on.
     As I slowed, a familiar and spectacular star field covered the entire sky. At this speed and closeness I could now make out individual stars and began to navigate from memory towards the Ashei system.
     First to appear was "Wriutei", a massive star just sixteen light years from Ashei. This system boasted two inhabited worlds both oblivious to each other and to the rest of the universe. One planet sported human like bio-systems showing the beginnings of feudal government. The other planet housed self-maintaining machines that gave no hint of interests outside of routine survival maintenance.
     Beyond the rim of the Wriuteu system spanned the mighty Thyran. This huge sun although having twelve planets, two of which were life capable, had no native life at all. Upon their surfaces however there did exist a spattering of mining communities which were the pilot schemes of an ever-industrious human presence.
     Passing Thyran and its multi-coloured array of planets, I could now see the sun Rausun, about which my destination of Ashei revolved. Rausun with its unmistakeable bluish appearance lay about ten degrees above the axis of rotation of the galaxy in which it lived.
     Slowly its pinpoint of light evolved into a disc as I approached. Then its two largest planets began to twinkle as faint stars against the darkness of the space beyond.
     I began to speculate and look forward to the calm and unique understanding of the inhabitants of Ashei. Their world and philosophies were famous and intrigued if not mystified many civilisations of supposed greater advancement.
     They were still mortal and suffered all of its pain and anxieties. Their science was ancient yet their natural powers of telepathy and cultivated skills in universal understanding were second to none. They understood death and believed in an order of things beyond its darkness that defied any known scientific analysis.
     The words of their forebears clearly indicated first hand knowledge of life as immortals. The Ashei race had opted out it seems of the eternity set in favour of "The Single Truth", as they called it.
     Their teachings were sound yet the crucial issues in mastering the central core of these revelations were shrouded in secrecy. They would tease those visiting and seem to enjoy, as we did, the withholding of any clarifications.
     There ahead now was the commune planet of Ashei. Second innermost planet of Rausun, its distance from the sun was a mere eighty four million miles. Whilst being very Earth like in both size and atmosphere, its landmasses favoured the evolution of small island communities as opposed to large continental alliances.
     At first glance the symmetry in the positioning of the islands could have been mistaken as purposeful design, so equidistantly were they formed. The colours also falsely projected a synthetic image to the approaching visitor.
     Reducing speed still further in the thickening atmosphere, I descended along a shallow curve coming to rest upon the beach at Old Fellows Cove in Yellow Port.
     Ahead of me on the track at the edge of the bay was a typical Ashei sight. The humour of these people was evident to all but themselves. Coming down the hill was a beaten up old cart with four wobbly wheels. Pulling this cart was a magnificent horse-like creature which, from memory, I knew to be a robot.
    Along the wayside hereabouts you’d often stumble across garage-stables. These premises were equipped with all the basic carpentry tools and skills needed to maintain such carts. But in addition to this in an adjoining room, you’d find all manner of micro servos, control chips and so on to fully support the robotics of the horse.
    The Ashei just couldn’t see the humour of the image before me; it was an outrageous contrast of old and new. Trying not to show any amusement, I simply waved as the sole occupant passed by and continued on my own route to the vantage point at the rear of the bay.
     Underfoot the sand gave way to a hardy grass-like vegetation and then to parched soil as I climbed the small hill. Half way to the summit I collided with an invisible rock. I’d forgotten about this feature of the Ashei countryside.
     A somewhat misleading description I now recalled, as this so called rock was neither stone nor invisible, at least in the real sense of the words. The offending object was in fact a power sub-station. It was a kind of holographic battery used for storing electricity and transmitted its power in a manner akin to the disputed theories of Tesla, a scientist of Earth.
     Stepping aside I rejoined the trail on the other side of the object and was soon stationed at the highest point in the surrounding area.
     From here I could see literally for miles. The air quality of this world was always perfect and the relatively flat terrain of Yellow Port afforded the most wonderful views. Inland or out to sea I could see for what must have been thirty miles or more.
     Re-tuned now after the invisible rock incident, I could sense the objects magnetics on the plateau before me and counted four of them aligned roughly north to south. Above I saw a party of five or six "Viewers" as they were known, en route to a gathering somewhere to the west of the island. This mode of transport enabled the traveller to transport his mind through space in a way that was entirely independent of a vehicle.
    The name viewer came from the routes of the art when its skills were called either remote viewing or astral travelling. In Ashei text the Viewer is said to occupy a space between the mortal world and the "Single Truth".
     The appeal of the Ashei people for me and for many others was that their skills and knowledge were based on natural forces. Most visitors here for instance, whilst they could emulate many of the native skills, did so with the assistance of technology.
     There is a school of thought proposing that all the natural Ashei realities and all of their technological counterparts, were in fact the same animal. The basis of the argument is essentially that instead of harnessing enormous quantities of energy to break down gravitational and space-time barriers, the same goals might be achieved using the micro powers of the biological machine. This macro verses micro power argument was an endless source of distraction amongst the eternals here.
     Suppressing the desire to follow the passing Viewers, I continued inland in pursuit of a tranquillity that could only exist on this world. No deadlines survived here. Daily life was for the furtherment of ones horizons and nothing else. All support activities were automated to allow inhabitants complete freedom.
     One could often see a person working in the fields or fixing machinery, but this would be from choice in an individuals quest for clear understanding and not from financial necessity.
     Music, verse, science and a multitude of other activities were the name of the game here. The crossover of each discipline became clearer to me with every visit as each of the at first seemingly diverse subjects, in essence sought the same "Single Truth".
    Much of the ugly side of world maintenance lay hidden below the surface. On an early visit I’d been shown some of the routine factory facilities that functioned eternally below almost every island in Ashei. Again the most striking memory of this I have is the strange mix of old and new systems. Alongside the straining leather drive belt of a mill, you might find a self-sustaining power vortex, which, burning like a sun, would provide power for many centuries.
     Coming to rest by a gently flowing stream in the silence and magic of this perhaps the most electrifying wilderness anywhere; I slept. .
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