This is a sequel to “With New Eyes.” It takes place many, many years after the events depicted in that story.
“You think yourselves dwellers in paradise; I say you are denizens of hell!”
Galen the sixteenth rapped his knuckles against the rusted, gutted, half-buried hull of the metallic behemoth that had transported their ancestors to the blasphemous planet upon which they were doomed to live out their utterly meaningless lives.
“Our very presence here is an offense to Kryuss. He waits for us in the true promised land. With the Creators! He weeps for his children! Can you not hear his cries?”
Laughter. They’re laughing at me. They mock the prophet. Forgive them, oh Kryuss! They do not know…
“Fool! We have had enough of your noise! You spit upon the words of Kryuss, and on the blessings of the Creators, when you speak such heresy!”
Galen recognized the voice as Caspian the twentieth. He sighed. Caspians. Even though Homecoming had brought about an end to the replication process and children were once again conceived naturally, certain lineages remained relatively, and remarkably, unchanged. Most believed that they retained the souls of their Firsts and it was difficult to dispute this claim where the exceedingly haughty Caspians were concerned.
“You think this village we’ve built, these gardens and orchards and vineyards we’ve planted, you think that these simple things are blessings of the Creators?” Galen shot back.
He reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a shiny red apple. “Do you think that our Firsts, centuries upon centuries ago, followed the prophet to the stars for this?” He bit into the apple, chewed for a moment, made a face and then spit it out.
“This fruit is bitter!” He shouted, and hurled the the rest of it over the heads of the gathering crowd. “Where are the Creators? Where? They are not here!”
“You are ruining everyone’s Homecoming, Galen!” Shouted Mumbi the fourteenth. “Come; celebrate with us and forget this foolishness!”
Galen composed himself; stiffened. “I cannot celebrate that which I am compelled to mourn!”
He turned his back on the crowd and stormed off into the sweet-smelling flowerfog that had poured into the village from the jungle during the course of his speech.
As he made his way down the cobblestone streets, dodging clumsy, tottering drunks and rambunctious children running in circles, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for himself.
These ignorant blasphemers are dancing in the streets with joy, and yet my faith condemns me to a cage. I am not permitted to enjoy a single moment of my life, knowing what I know.
An eager tug on his sleeve snapped him out of his melancholy reverie.
He turned and looked down. “Andros the Ninth. What do you want?”
Andros looked down. “I… I just wanted to tell you that I… I think you’re right. About rebuilding the spaceship and taking it to the real promised land.
“A child of eleven years old,” said Galen. “If only the others, petrified in their stubbornness, could see things as clearly and without bias as the mind of one so young.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the ship and trying to figure out how it worked.”
Galen raised an eyebrow. “Oh? And what have you figured out?”
Andros hung his head and sighed. “That we’ll never be able to fix it. There are too many parts missing or damaged.”
Galen decided he’d had enough of the conversation and broke into a brisk walk. Andros followed after him.
“Galen, we can build our own spaceship. Big enough to take ten, maybe twelve people. I think I can do it but I need your help”
“Ha! What kind of child knows about such things? Begone, little one. Leave me in peace.”
“A child who is bored,” said Andros. “A child with no purpose.”
Galen stopped. “Yes. Yes I know exactly what you mean, young man.” All too well.
“Let me show you something I’ve built,” said Andros.
Galen put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and smiled. The child’s heart was in the right place. “I’d like that.”
Galen had expected to feign amazement at the child’s handiwork, encourage him to “keep it up” and leave in time to be home for his evening meal.
As it turned out, he didn’t have to feign anything. And his stomach’s needs were going to have to wait. When he set foot in learning station three’s workshop, his jaw dropped. “What…what is all of this?”
There were blinking lights, tangles of wiring–the kind people ripped from the ship and used to make decorative door wreaths–and machine parts that seemed to be doing things, separately yet somehow in unison. He didn’t understand any of it.
“I’ve never seen… electricity before. Why, this is marvelous.”
Andros was clearly pleased by the gushing adult validation he was receiving. He was beaming.
“Neat, huh? It’s a computer. It’ll tell the new spaceship where to go and what to do. It’s like a brain.”
“And you got all of these things from the ship?”
Andros shrugged. “Yeah, I mean, it’s been picked over pretty well, of course. There were a lot of these computers on board, though, and even though people have taken most of them apart and made the pieces of them into clocks and jewelry and whatnot, I managed to get everything I needed to make a single working model.”
He pointed to a set of wires that ran from the mass of living machinery to the sill beneath an open window, where they connected to a glass box with more machinery humming and flashing inside of it . “It runs on the light from the sun,” he said. “That’s what charges the battery.”
Galen was beginning to feel like an imbecile, standing in the presence of a child whose intellect was clearly superior to his own , but his ego was irrelevant and he ignored its protests accordingly. This machine, this… computer, it was hope. He’d never experienced hope before.
“Your supervisors allow this to exist?”
Andros shrugged. “As an Andros I’m expected to be a builder. An inventor. It’s in our blood. My great grandfather’s First actually helped design the ship. He was something called an “engineer.” My supervisors think I’m working on some kind of flying cart that will enable us to travel beyond the wastelands where the Creators dwell in their palaces of light. It’s sort of true. I mean, it is meant to take us to the Creators. Their true home.”
Galen nodded. “Yes… their obliviousness works in our favor. We can construct this ship of yours right under their noses, and they’ll not suspect a thing.”
Galen caught a flash of something on the boy’s face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Um,” said Andros, “If we’re gonna do that, you might need to stop drawing so much attention to yourself. Stop trying to change people’s minds, because they’ll never listen. You’ll just upset them and they’ll come in here and smash everything up. Tell them you want to help me with my project because you’ve come to accept that the Creators are here, and that you want to communicate with them as we all do.”
Galen scratched his chin. “That is sensible advice.”
“And shave off that beard. It makes you look crazy.”
Many seasons came and went by the time the spaceship was completed. Andros was fifteen years old when he, Galen and six other true believers in the Word of Kryuss stood before the ruling council and all of the settlers, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast, murky expanse of the wastelands.
Everyone was there to see them embark upon a mission to the other side of the meet the Creators. They didn’t know it was going to be a one-way trip.
Kryuss, bless us on our journey.
They boarded the ship one by one, their group of six plus two others chosen by the council. Those two outsiders would soon have a decision to make–adapt or die. Galen was prepared to end them, if the need arose, but the thought made him queasy–they’d never be reformed, they just… wouldn’t be. Anything. Ever again. And one of them was a twenty–third.
He gripped the armrests of his seat as Andros fired up the thrusters and looked out of his window at the people of the village, many of whom were cheering and waving colorful flags and banners.
“Farewell, lost ones.” He muttered. No one heard him over the roar of the engines. The ship began to rise, and the people on the ground got smaller with each second that passed.
They began moving forward, picking up speed as they approached the void. Galen was apprehensive, but not afraid. He would not not allow fear to bend his faith.
The ship wasn’t equipped for a continuation of the kind of generational voyage originally envisioned by Kryuss. They had enough oxygen and supplies to survive a week or so on their own, Galen knew. But they weren’t on their own–the prophet was with them. They were flying into the hands of the Creators themselves, who would would take care of everything.
Kryuss guide us, he prayed silently as the ship arced upwards towards the sky.
He thought he heard the stars answer.