In the tradition of Cardinal Bellarmine and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, here is a tale of a priest caught between doctrine and his relentless pursuit of truth.
You, an emissary from the Holy Father himself, have come to question me? I am sure you understand my surprise. I am an old Jesuit sitting in the sun, dreaming away the afternoon in this quiet seminary garden. What could I know that is of such interest to Rome? Perhaps of interest to the entire world, you say? Surely you know that my order has suppressed my thoughts for 40 years. What has happened to arouse the Holy Father's sudden interest?
Say nothing--I know why you have sought me out. I will tell you the story you have come to hear and answer the question you have come to ask. Indulge me. I am an old man and I may seem to ramble, but I am no fool. I am a Jesuit and an ordained priest, and I am a graduate of the Sorbonne's school of xeno-technoarcheology, right here in Paris. You would do well to pay attention.
You want me to tell you the story of how the quantum engineer Angstrom and I went to the planet Paschal II. You want me to tell you about Paschal's alien technology. I must warn you that my story will answer the Holy Father's question, but I doubt that the Holy Father will like my answer.
Isn't this garden beautiful? Let's take this path that winds between these irises and lilies. Charming. Here we will sit in this small, secluded arbor. I'll sit where the sun will shine on my back and you may sit there, on that wooden bench, in the shade, so the brightness will not shine into your eyes.
My story begins 20 years and three popes ago. I was 50 (I must add that I was fit and muscular) when a signal was received from an interstellar probe that had been silent for years and given up for lost. The probe was one of our Catholic probes, one of many such automatons sent out to seek the heathen.
Seeking the heathen. All that happened before you were born, when ruins abandoned by an alien race were found in several local systems. Your teachers probably did not teach you about the period of theological anguish caused by these discoveries. Non-human intelligence was seen as a mortal threat to man's central role in God's vision of the unfolding universe. No, they wouldn't teach you all the anguish. Instead they taught Rome's charitable compromise: intelligent aliens became an untapped source of heathen, making conversion the Church's obvious interstellar task. Thus the Church, and through the Church all mankind, was restored to its rightful place at the center of God's plan.
These interesting ideas are worth examination. One must first assume that heathen alien have real souls to save, which gives rise to some absorbing theological disputes. One must also assume that any converting to be done would be done by us, not by the aliens. But I said I would not ramble. In the abandoned ruins those first explorers found alien technology that was functional yet quite inscrutable. These machines (the word machine is misleading but there is no other word) manipulated a mysterious relationship between thought and thing. Alien technology is like the scent of honeysuckle on a calm, moonless night. The scent reveals the presence of the flower, but not the flower itself.
Is it true that Rome has aborted these futile attempts to find the alien race? Does Rome finally believe they have not set foot on their abandoned planets for a hundred thousand years? Perhaps our young new pope has been convinced by a hundred years of evidence. After all, he is trained as a scientist. Are you surprised that a biologist could be elected pope? If I didn't know better I would think I had been dreaming.
No matter. The aliens vanished who knows where, leaving behind their dormant technology, and we xeno-technoarcheologists fumble with its mysterious blend of material physics and spiritual metaphysics.
Are you comfortable on that bench? Good. I like to rest here in the afternoons. The drone of insects masks the hum of the traffic outside the wall. Outside the garden wall. That phrase is important. To speak of alien ideas is very difficult and best done through metaphor. In my forbidden writings I have said that metaphor is the poetry of reason.
See there, beyond the linden tree--do you see the hule patiently weeding amongst the flowers? A young official like yourself who works inside the Vatican probably has no experience with hules. They are manufactured creatures, wordless, two-legged things, cobbled together in vats from assorted mammalian genes, slaves bred for lives of toil. We took three hules to Paschal II. They are part simian--see how he holds his hoe with his thumbs?--and part canine. They have the eagerness of a dog and the intelligence of a higher ape, which is why the path we took is so well-swept. Although their hairy faces lack expression, one can see from their gait that they wear their coveralls with pride. They think they are more than animals.
But back to my tale. The probe had wandered light-years off its programmed course. I will offer an explanation for this later. Fifty light-years from here it had found an Earthlike planet with a single alien ruin. From low orbit around this blue-white globe the probe--which was equipped with a whimsical database of minor figures from the history of Catholicism--named the planet Paschal II. Even though we religious have time on our hands and can learn many unimportant things, you may not know that Paschal II was Pope from 1099 to 1118, anno Domini.
The orbiting probe reported on its survey of Paschal II. There were cloud-streaked oceans and snow-capped mountains sweeping down to gloomy forests. Lush jungles hid the bulk of the biomass and dry savannas teemed with animals. On a clifftop beside a broad estuary stood a white building, a massive dome resting on slender pillars. This was the only sign of ancient alien visitation. The temple, as we came to call it, stood at the center of a wide terrace that looked over the eastern ocean.
The probe launched several pods of scientific instruments into Paschal's atmosphere. They all failed during their descent, reporting in their last seconds temperatures approaching absolute zero. If that were true, Paschal II should have been a wasteland of frozen gas. Right away the small community of Catholic xeno-technoarcheologists suspected that the entire planet was protected by an AMF--an anti-machine field. A few other AMF's, small ones, were known at that time, but experience with them was very limited.
Have you read my report of our expedition? Did you blow the dust from its cover and read it in some corner of the Vatican Library? Then you already know how Angstrom and I made the descent from orbit, even though in an AMF all machines freeze and fail when, and only when, you try to use them. Intent to use is the mark of the alien technology.
What I admire most about alien tech is its elegance. There is no structure, no obvious device, no clever machine--only an elegant location where an effect is triggered by a certain state of mind. My first encounter with alien tech was as a graduate student on the planet Passion. The tech was a simple staircase. Some people, some of the time they climbed it, arrived at the top with memories of things that never could have happened. They would talk as if their new memories were real, even write them down, but if they walked down the stairs they forgot those memories. We never understood what triggered these effects, or discovered the purpose of this machine, if I can use that word. We've never understood the workings of any alien tech.
AMF's are a rare form of alien tech. Only a few have been found, and only on three or four planets. Each protects a small area of space and--since on two occasions AMF's have appeared and later disappeared--perhaps they protect small areas of time as well.
Did you know that it was I who discovered the Tower of Echo? No? You haven't heard of the Tower of Echo? Well, I'm not surprised. It promised to be truly dangerous... to Rome, I mean. But the Tower is another story, and I promised not to ramble.
Paschal II is still the only planet completely protected by an AMF, making it something of an instant Holy Grail.
Humor an old man for a moment. When you were in the library, reading my report, did you see my proscribed essays gathering dust in some corner alcove? Did you glance at any of my work? No? Perhaps you didn't know my writing was the reason I went to Paschal.
As a young man I would express my thoughts in small essays which I would show to my friends. My ideas were well-received by a widening circle of thoughtful readers and took on a life of their own--electronic samizdat. In time, my essays came to the attention of the Office of the Congregation of the Faith. What a benign name--The Office of the Congregation of the Faith--for what was once called the Inquisition. If I were not a Jesuit, I would say with some pride that I believe my work was read by the Holy Father himself.
Over 20 years I had several interviews with Curial officials. Each interview followed months or even years of preparatory examination of documents while I waited, mutely, for approval of perhaps a single essay. My only rewards were long lists of required revisions that might, in the future, make my work acceptable for official publication.
During this time I continued my work as a xeno-technoarcheologist. My scientific writing was of no interest to the Church, but, unknown to Rome (and even to myself at first) my scientific work slowly merged with my religious beliefs. In my mid-forties I collected my ideas in a book that was to encompass all my beliefs: The Spiritual Evolution of Matter: Dust, Man and Beyond.
A few weeks after my manuscript arrived in Rome, the Congregation of the Faith leveled the specific and serious charge of Unsound Doctrine. The Spiritual Evolution of Matter contradicted fundamental Catholic dogma first set forth by Aquinas over a thousand years ago. Saint Thomas said that matter was merely matter and doomed to pass away, while spirit was eternal spirit. Unlike mass and energy--which are equivalent--ephemeral matter can never become eternal spirit. You do have some scientific training, enough to know that matter can be transformed into energy? Good.
This time there were no difficult passages, no suggested sections for revision, no authority was assigned me to help me clarify my thoughts. They simply told me that The Spiritual Evolution of Matter: Dust, Man and Beyond was profoundly heretical and could never be published.
If I may digress for a moment, you might be interested to know that I find heresy intriguing. It is a state of grace to which one is summoned. Once appointed a heretic, one's unauthorized thoughts are formally authorized. Unauthorized Thoughts. It is a validation, and like garden weeds, they can never be completely eradicated.
I believe that metaphor is the poetry of reason. Did I mention that before? Well, the human mind is a garden of thought. There are the flowers of human thought: the annuals of art and science, and the perennials of faith. There are weeds, too. But what lies outside the garden wall? Is there only desert, stretching to a hazy horizon, or are there other gardens, alien gardens of thought where we might wander if we only we could find the narrow gate in the wall of our small garden? Perhaps weeds in our garden might be flowers in other, alien gardens? But, in our human garden, my heretical weeds were intolerable and Rome said I must not write.
I am a Jesuit who is sworn to a life of obedience. We who have sworn to obey know that, while God frowns on those who use authority irrationally, He smiles on those of us who irrationally obey. I felt He was smiling on me when, two years later, Rome's lost probe discovered Paschal II.
There was nothing for me here on Earth. I asked to be sent to the new planet. I knew there must be a great secret on a planet protected by an AMF. Unlike other XTA's I had nothing to lose by going to Paschal II. Even if I did not return I would be serving God. If I did discover how to defeat the AMF then I could not only return to Earth, but return in triumph.
And my friend Angstrom, why did he go with me? In my report I don't think I mentioned that Angstrom was the son of a Paris chef. Angstrom had inherited his father's love of food. Through all the years I worked with him he never weighed less than 150 kilos. Arcs of sweat stained the armpits of his shirts and those who worked beside him always breathed the faint smell of stale sweat.
Although his professional peers were disgusted by his obesity they were forced to respect his intellect. At the end of his career his hunger for truth, not food, led to his professional disgrace and ostracism. But more of that later. All you need to know about Angstrom at this time is that he was a kind man and that the chance of an uncertain quest on Paschal II offered him more than the miserable certainty of his lonely life on Earth.
And what was the purpose of our trip? I think you understand that it was to turn off the AMF and discover the secret that was hidden on Paschal II.
I have never enjoyed space travel. Like many things that seem exciting, space travel is quite boring.
We journeyed to Paschal II on a ship I renamed the Teilhard de Chardin, after a predecessor of mine. She was an ancient, unsafe faster-than-light freighter owned by one of the Vatican's labyrinthine holding companies. Rome said we could use her because the Chardin was on her way to the scrap yard. Do you understand why an unspaceworthy ship was ideal? You don't? Surely you see that I was a certified heretic, forbidden to speak but still capable of thought. I was a constant threat here on Earth. My unfortunate death in space would be a tragic loss that would be quickly forgotten. And if the Chardin did not break up in hyperspace, Rome would be pleased to see me marooned on Paschal II behind the impenetrable veil of the AMF. Ah, I can see from the slight inclination of your head that you are no neophyte in the ways of the Vatican. Perhaps you know that the planning for the second, fully-equipped expedition--the one that would be sent when ours unfortunately disappeared--was already underway.
Before we left Earth we had our universal antibody boosters, so that we could drink the water on Paschal II, so to speak. Like us, the three hules had their antibody booster together with a shot of a long-acting anti-gonadotropin to continue the suppression of their self-replicating behavior. When breeding mammalian intelligence in a vat there are some behaviors that apparently cannot be eliminated. In lieu of pharmaceuticals I had my vow of chastity and for Angstrom, well, as far as I know he was functionally asexual.
Why did we take the hules? The hules would be our porters, our bearers. Without machines we would be forced to explore Paschal like 17th century adventurers from Europe's Age of Discovery--those glorious days when scarcely a cape was rounded or a river explored without a Jesuit on board.
For two days we coasted away from Earth's gravitational field. To pass the time I took out the battered brass reflecting telescope given to me by one of my teachers when I was a young man. The stars shown as they do only when seen from space, a myriad suns wheeling through the void. In time each sun would die in a brief nova or rarer supernova, spewing forth gassy clouds of star stuff. Eons later this dust would cool and condense into new suns and planets. On a tiny fraction of these planets liquid water would be squeezed from rock and the long procession of life would begin. Half-alive slime at first, then bacteria refining their cell walls and nuclei for a billion years, then another billion years of microscopic multicellular beings whose progeny, in another billion years or so, would be fish and birds and mammals and creatures like men, with souls.
Be careful. You are listening to dangerous ideas, my young friend.
Did I mention that the three hules were Rome's gift to our expedition? Another example of Rome's threadbare generosity. They were spare agricultural hules from this seminary. Spare hules are a problem: junking them is a difficult moral question. Industry quietly euthanizes them, but the Church is more principled--or more squeamish--and assigns its surplus hules, like aging nuns, to ever lighter duties. These three hules, however, were assigned to our mission to live or die, as God saw fit, marooned with me and Angstrom.
Sedated, the three slept through our five-day journey across the light-years. Sometimes I would check on them as they lay in the narrow bunks on the cargo bay. M. Jules was strong and willing while Mlle. Marie was a delicate creature often found in the company of M. Jules. M. Alain had a truculent air as if he blamed all men not only for being a manufactured mutation but also for being born a slave. Although they had no souls we always addressed them as Monsieur or Mademoiselle. They were more than animals and these honorifics eased the quiet discomfort we felt in their presence.
Asleep in the Chardin's cargo bay their shaggy faces were impassive. There was no flicker under their eyelids, no twitching, no soft moaning while they slept. Minutes before our trip through hyperspace Angstrom, hunched over a subunit of the quantum drive in the Chardin's engine-room, churlishly snapped at me, "Hules are like other animals; they only seem to dream."
Did I describe Paschal II? I think I told you that this planet was more Earthlike than others found at the time. Like Earth, Paschal even had a single airless moon. From orbit we looked down on the estuary and the clifftop temple. The river's source seemed to lie in lush upland forests which stretched to the edge of a long escarpment. The river plunged over this scarp into lowland jungles where it was a broad brown thing that wound for miles and miles until it reached the sea.
Our descent to the surface was frightful. Angstrom, figuring that a passive airfoil would not trigger the AMF, had built a glider--a mono-wing without moving control surfaces or other mechanical devices--that was designed to swoop erratically, like a leaf falling from orbit, never flying faster than 200 kilometers per hour.
"No turning back. Let's hope we can turn the damned thing off when we get there," he said. He meant the AMF of course, not the glider. He pulled the red switch to fire the explosive bolts that held us beneath the Chardin. There was a muffled thud and we dropped down below the ship. Above us we saw the Chardin's shuttlecraft hanging in its bay.
Strapped in, we sat in the darkness, listening to the rush of air and the creaking of the prestressed airframe, feeling nothing but nausea and fear. We were waiting for the sudden cold of the AMF or the crack of a fractured strut, followed by the rush of air as we fell from the shattered glider and plunged to our deaths. Behind us the hules, whom we had wakened earlier so they could stumble to their seats inside the glider, were whining piteously. A sudden stench of vomit told us that one of them had thrown up. For hours we lived with the sound of their retching and with our own fear and swooping vertigo.
It was night when we hit the ground a few miles west of the temple. As Angstrom had planned, the force of the crash tore open the fuselage. A hatch would have been useless. Hinges and latches would freeze the moment we tried to use them in the anti-machine field. The glider skidded and tumbled to a halt. Clouds of dust swirled through the torn fuselage and settled on our lips and in our noses. The dust tasted dry and somehow clean.
I clambered out and my boots crunched on sand and gravel. We were on high ground, although alarmingly close to a ravine. I could see the moonlit temple far to the east, beside the dark ocean. A black lake filled a crater down the slope below me; ill-formed mountains rose behind us. The whole landscape was elusively evocative. I breathed in the cool night air and remembered my boyhood in the Auvergne. Perhaps Paschal's spectral landscape reminded me of those gaunt hills where my father took me to hear country folk tell tales of mystical quests in which the hero returned with his Holy Grail. When I was older I realized that the hero was always subtly wounded by his quest.
The cooling glider ticked and creaked. Angstrom squeezed his bulk through the hole in the fuselage. He was wearing his old safari jacket with its many pockets for tools and gadgets. I wondered what he planned to put in his pockets here on Paschal. Always the scientist, he walked around the glider examining its mono-wing to see how his design had withstood its single swooping flight. He touched the wing's leading edge but quickly drew back his finger and sucked its tip.
He grabbed a crowbar from the darkness inside the fuselage and jammed one end underneath a rock. Putting his shoulder to the crowbar he heaved for a second. The bar snapped abruptly and Angstrom staggered into the rock. At his feet the two halves of the bar were already covered with hoar frost and the metal crumbled to an icy dust.
"So much for the lever," he said. He pulled a threaded bolt from his pocket. "Let's try the screw." He spun a nut onto the bolt but after a turn or two the nut froze to the bolt and he dropped the combination onto the sand and sucked the ice from his fingertips. "Screw's out. That means the inclined plane and the wedge won't work. This AMF's the same as all the others. Even Archimedes' simple machines malfunction, let alone anything more complicated."
Our own bodies were full of mechanical devices, muscles, tendon, joints but alien tech was not triggered by the device itself. The tech was triggered by the mind's intent to move inanimate matter and use it as a tool. A tool, you see, is a marriage of matter and spirit--the motion of the material substance of the tool and the mind's purposeful intent.
We clambered back inside the pungent darkness of the fuselage to help the hules stagger onto the sand. They mewled and chittered to one another. Were they afraid, or surprised? Who could tell? They were restless, sniffing the air and peering at their strange new surroundings. I said that as long as they were occupied they would be fine.
When our food and other supplies--clothing, ropes, my Bible and other priestly apparatus--had been stuffed into the packs, I showed the hules how to adjust the friction buckles on the shoulder-straps. I mention the buckles to show you how we had planned our expedition. Experience had shown that other AMF's had no effect on static friction. We rejected the usual buckles with its little tongue poking through a hole in the strap and chose only buckles with no moving parts.
The hules staggered off into the gray half-light. Angstrom led them and M. Jules followed. The other two shambled along behind in single file. Their shapeless coveralls made them look aimless.
I went over to the broken glider and checked to see that the remote control that would bring the shuttlecraft down from orbit was still stuffed in its pocket on the cockpit bulkhead. Satisfied, I followed the others towards the temple. By the time I caught up with them the sun was rising over the eastern ocean.
In mid-morning we were crossing a broad savanna. Herds of winged para-deer were grazing on the dry grass. (XTA's aren't interested in naming species--we just add the prefix para- to the name of whatever Earth animal fits best.) Once, in the distance, we saw a horned, striped predator bring down a bounding herbivore and tear its belly open. The hules sniffed anxiously. I suppose the scent of blood was borne to them on the wind. Angstrom stopped to watch. "Do you think we count as prey?
I picked up a stone and hefted it in my hand, thinking about the hules and how to defend them if a para-tiger should attack. The rock suddenly became as cold as ice--no, much colder--in my hand. I dropped it before my skin froze and said, "Not much we can do about if we are."
We approached the temple in mid-afternoon and faced a long climb up a curving stairway to the clifftop terrace. The height and width of each step was different, typical of alien architecture. Some scholars said the aliens valued diversity above all else but, I asked myself, how could anyone know what the aliens valued? Even the concept of value might be too human.
Cautiously Angstrom put his foot on the first step. He waited and the sweat soaked slowly through the back of his safari jacket. Nothing else seemed to happen. We pressed on and reached the top, panting, 15 minutes later. Once again we waited on the last step, monitoring ourselves for change. A worn balustrade which marked the edge of the terrace curved away in the distance at the very edge of the cliff. The wind that ruffled our hair smelled of ozone and tasted slightly salty.
We stepped onto the terrace. The first few white flagstones were tilted, cracked and worn with age, but after a few more steps the stones under our feet met perfectly. This was as we had expected; the temple was protected by a preservation field. These fields, using some mysterious stored energy, collapsed slowly--a few inches every century--and peripheral decay like this was found at many otherwise perfectly-preserved alien sites.
We headed toward the temple. The white dome shone in the sunshine, its ellipsoidal surface resting on columns that had the thin strength of wineglass stems. Most alien structures are based on this pseudo-conic geometry--ellipsoidal or parabolic surfaces, often with negative curvature--that defy conventional mathematical analysis. Angstrom and I approached slowly. The hules lagged behind, sniffing the sea breeze.
Inside the temple there was a shimmering translucent sphere, perhaps 20 meters in diameter floating two meters off the ground. The surface of the sphere trembled in the breeze as if it were alive.
We circled the sphere once but learned nothing. Angstrom put his finger out and touched it. He pulled his finger back, looked at me, and said "Try it."
I touched the sphere. The surface was cool--but there was no surface! My finger sank into the substance of the sphere and was surrounded by coolness. Ripples spread across the curvature above my head. I pulled my finger out. My finger was unharmed.
"Amazing," said Angstrom. "If only we knew... if only we knew what it was for, how it floats, had even a glimpse of how it works." But another hour spent in the temple taught us nothing. It was another alien enigma, wonderful, yet completely frustrating. We withdrew to think about what we had seen. At least we had not triggered any untoward effects.
The hules had wandered away to the balustrade looking over the ocean. I called to them. At the western edge of the terrace, away from the ocean, we found shelter from the sea breeze in a clump of trees.
Living in the Vatican, you have probably never realized that you must have tools to start a fire. In the AMF there would be no camp fires to cook our food or warm us in the night. I was not looking forward to eating our rations cold and sleeping, wrapped in our blankets, in the open, but to my surprise Angstrom gathered dry grass, leaves and twigs and piled them in a small pyramid.
"An experiment," he said. From the pocket of his safari jacket he pulled a magnifying glass. There was still some warmth in the sunlight and in two minutes he had created a tiny flame that licked at the tendrils of dry vegetation. "Passive, like the drop of dew that focuses the morning sun to start a forest fire," he said. The hules eyed the fire from a distance. They were wary, uneasy. In their secluded lives in the seminary garden I don't think they had ever seen a naked flame.
I brought water from the river for us to drink. We men ate with our hands while the hules set their bowls on the ground and lapped noisily. They seemed more comfortable with their dining arrangements than Angstrom or I.
The moon had risen and we settled down for sleep, the hules huddling close to us like dogs at a hunters' camp. I was tired after the exertion of the day and was already half-asleep when I heard one of the hules get up. It was M. Jules. He padded down to the edge of the river, to drink I thought. The moon was shining across the smooth water. He looked up at the moon and threw his head back so that the tendons in his neck stood out in taut relief. He howled. It was a mournful, lonely sound that faded away across the water, rising through the air towards the moon. There was no answer.
I had never heard a hule make a noise like this before. Picking their way quietly across the grass and rocks, Mlle. Marie and M. Alain joined him at the water's edge. Mlle. Marie threw back her head and howled with him. Their bestial song was a poignant duet, raw yet beautiful. M. Alain added his bass. The cool night wind carried their bestial fugue across the water. Were they homesick? Did they know that their quiet seminary garden was 50 light-years away, orbiting a faint star in the night sky overhead? When they had spent their crude emotions they shambled back to camp and lay down again.
Unsettled, I felt a need for solitude and prayer. I walked to the eastern edge of the terrace and leaned over the balustrade to look down on the estuary and the dark ocean. Waves crashed against the foot of the cliff and once again I tasted the salty ocean spray.
I stood there for a long time while Paschal's unfamiliar constellations rose from the eastern ocean and climbed into the sky. Filled with a sense of peace I turned to look back at the temple where the rising stars were reflected on the surface of the sphere. I was surprised to discover that I simply knew, without the slow steps of reason, that the sphere was a lens and the temple was a lighthouse that swept its invisible beam across the miles of ocean and the light-years of the starry void beyond. Thrilled, I understood that this beam had found and lured Rome's missing probe to Paschal.
Do you remember? I told you I would tell you how the probe found Paschal. Are you still comfortable? Good. Look down there on the flagstones at our feet--do you see how the sun shines through what hair I have, making a halo of light around the shadow of my head. Did you now that the word "halo" comes from the Greek? Halo means threshing floor, where the wheat is garnered and the chaff rejected. Strange, how we religious acquire useless knowledge. The evening air is not too chill? Good.
Suddenly and without any effort on my part, I knew that the temple lens was made of water because, on Paschal II, the alien tech was in the water of the world, hidden in the rivers and the rains and the salty ocean spray that caked my lips.
The next morning Angstrom asked, "If the sphere is a lighthouse, does it mark a safe harbor for travelers across the light-years or does it mark a hidden danger that will destroy us all?"
"It marks the river," I said. "Safe or dangerous, the end of our quest lies at the source of the river."
The river was wide, brown and slow. A few miles upstream we entered a densely canopied climax forest. Raucous creatures with bulbous eyes and more than four legs shrieked at us from the treetops. Thick suckers descended from the canopy and, where they touched the ground, grew roots and bark until they were indistinguishable from upthrusting trunks. The light that reached us was filtered through many translucent leafy layers 50 meters above our heads. When the gentle winds of Paschal II tousled the treetops the dappled shadows ebbed and flowed at our feet. Walking through these green shadows was like walking underwater and we walked for many days like this, with the brown river on our right and the green jungle on our left.
Building a boat was always an idea but proved impossible without tools. Even a raft of logs lashed together with the rope from our packs was beyond us. We had no way to cut down trees or trim them to size. Besides, the AMF would have destroyed the oars or poles we would need to navigate.
One morning I found the hules eating fruit from the trees. I was too late to stop them. I watched them anxiously for the rest of the day. If they sickened we could not continue upriver because Angstrom and I could carry only enough food for a few days. As the day wore on it seemed that the fruit had done them no harm.
Each day we rose at dawn, walked until mid-afternoon, and camped. On a good day we walked 20 kilometers. After a month our clothes were torn and ragged, our hair shaggy and our beards unkempt, but we were tanned and fit and Angstrom had lost perhaps 20 kilograms.
The insects, of which there were innumerable species, were more like flying reptiles than chitinous beetles. They did not bother us, nor did the larger animals that stalked their prey in that jungle. At night we sometimes heard some victim scream.
"It's as if we are invisible," said Angstrom as we lay by the fire one evening.
"We are. But is Paschal protecting or ignoring us?" I wondered.
Did I mention earlier that metaphor is the poetry of reason? I did? Good. Well, I told Angstrom a story from the life of a Jesuit priest whose biography I had read. He was a missionary in 21st century Africa who spent his life at the intersection of Christianity, Islam, and Animism. Ministering to the wounded during one of the cruel and petty wars of those times, he witnessed a young woman leading a ragtag army dressed in tattered fatigues. They were following her down a dirt road toward the enemy. The woman was naked and walked backward. She held a mirror before her face to look over her shoulder and study the road as she walked.
A young mercenary, toying with the safety catch of his automatic weapon, told the priest, "Because she is naked and does not look at the enemy with her own eyes, they cannot see her. She is invisible." The woman stepped on a land mine and there was nothing left but bloodstains in the dust.
We religious see things few others see.
For example, I have seen the Tower of Echo, a windy tower in the wall of an alien city. At the top of the tower, accessible only by a winding stair, is an open space looking over the ruined city and the lonely desert that surrounds it. There was an inconsistent echo in that windy openness where there should have been no echo.
Inconsistent? Yes. The strength of the echo varied with... well, it varied with the truth of what was said. Mathematical theorems echoed well, but some better than others, which is strange. Echoes of Mozart's music were very strong while Brahms' echoes were much quieter--I discovered that myself. Deliberate misstatement--two and two are three--would generate no returning sound at all.
We were very careful. Alien tech is dangerous. We assume that a mistake by one of the XTA's investigating Pius III collapsed the whole asteroid into a pinhole-sized black hole. The entire team was lost. For all we knew, the wrong statement in the windy Tower of Echo might turn off the tech, or worse. As always, everything we did received prior clearance from the Vatican.
I suggested to my superior that we might ask some more complex statements including some which Rome felt were untrue. I suggested, for example, that we say, "Matter slowly evolves into spirit." Unfortunately, further investigation was suspended, perhaps on orders from the Holy Father himself, and we were ordered home because, "We do not understand the workings of alien tech and have no assurance that the tower is a machine for determining the truth. Its purpose is unknown and may be only to deceive."
The night before we left I wondered if I should go back to the tower one last time and make statements from my own work, and perhaps other statements such as, "God made man in his own image." I also thought about saying, "Jesus Christ was the Son of God," just to see what happened.
The Tower of Echo--a machine that knew beauty and material truth, and perhaps spiritual truth as well--is the best example of how alien tech blends the principles of physics and metaphysics, bringing together the worlds of matter and of spirit. I must admit I was very tempted to test the dogma of Aquinas.
We walked upstream six days a week and rested on Sundays when I said Mass for Angstrom, opening the little sack of communion wafers I had brought from Earth. For wine I blessed water from the river. Canon Law requires at least one worshipper at Mass. You might wonder if Canon Law applies 50 light-years away from Earth, but the answer to that is simple. Canon Law applies wherever there are Catholics. The hules watched us idly, scratching and sniffing at one another while we prayed. Their animal behavior distracted me. Dogs sniffing at each other would not have offended me but I realized that I wanted the hules to pay attention. I found it hard to believe that matter would ever evolve into spirit when the hules licked their genitals while I was saying mass. I told Angstrom while I was putting away the wafers, "I know this is wrong, but sometimes the hules disgust me."
"Perhaps you should teach them to pray," he replied. I don't think he was serious.
They started sleeping on the other side of the fire from Angstrom and me. I wondered if they had understood my remark, but that was impossible.
The hules did start to give us more serious trouble. M. Alain developed a nasty habit of loosening the buckles on the straps of his pack. I never caught him at it but several times a day his pack would fall from his shoulders. I was sure he was trying to quietly lose his burden so I tied the straps in place. Somehow he learned to untie the knots and would let the pack fall from his shoulders when I was least expecting it. Angrily, I would retie the straps and, with luck, he would leave them alone for a few more hours.
One evening I caught the hules eating the communion wafers from my pack. M. Alain had the sack in his hands and was munching the last wafer. The other two had crumbs on their shaggy faces. I snatched the empty bag from his hands. "Get out of here," I yelled, shaking the bag at them as if I were exorcising devils. They slunk away like chastised dogs. After a few moments I felt calmer. I had remembered that hules could be guilty of an action, but were always innocent of motive.
What was the journey like? What did we feel? Did I miss Earth, my Jesuit brethren and my scholarly friends? Yes, I did miss their companionship. Did I worry that we might not find the source of the AMF, or be unable to extinguish the field? Yes, but strangely, I did not worry much. For the most part I was simply content.
Angstrom was good company. At the end of the day's journey he would light our fire with his magnifying glass and when darkness fell we would talk by the fire, lying under the strange stars of that alien sky.
"What is your thesis?" he asked me one night. "By thesis, I mean what is the central idea from which all your thought stems?"
Thoughtfully, I replied, "When I was five I sat by the fire the first time my mother cut my hair. She cut off a lock and threw it into the flames. It curled and burned and was gone. I saw how fragile I was and how easily the stuff of my body could disappear. The next day I buried a heavy old key in the garden, seeking to prove to myself that at least some things were permanent. Later I dug and I dug but I could never find it. These two events bothered me greatly and, in some sense, helped me decide to become a priest. I desperately wanted to enter the world of the spirit, you see, for the tenuous insubstantial world of the spirit is the world that endures."
"And your journey to Paschal?" asked Angstrom.
"We humans explore the material world using reason as our tool," I said. "We observe, experiment, question, hypothesize, refute and refine our ideas. But in the spiritual world our tool is faith. Experimentation is expressly forbidden and, by definition, dogma cannot be refuted by reason. In defiance of this separation, my thesis is that the material world of reason and the spiritual world of faith are frail human interpretations of a single deep reality."
Trained in theology, you know that this dichotomy between reason and faith pervades our Christian thought, and all our science too. But the aliens did not think in terms of reason or faith. Their machines used both physics and metaphysics. Did I mention the Tower of Echo? Yes, I remember that I did. But I can see you look shocked. I told you I was a heretic, sometimes subtle, but sometimes more brash. Sit back on your bench while I finish my story. You can always say your prayers later, when I am done.
As for Angstrom, he had his own thesis. He said, "Like you, I came to Paschal to answer a question. Like you, I work with an impossible dichotomy, but mine is one of waves and particles, momentum and position, the EPR paradox. Yet this quantum dichotomy works. Quantum gravitational engines lifted the battered Chardin across 50 light-years but quantum theory makes no sense. Behind the impossibilities must be a better, more complete, truth. Perhaps alien minds have different logics that resolve these problems."
"A truth you will find here on Paschal?" I asked.
"I hope I will. Alien machines manipulate time and space in clever ways. Human minds scarcely know what is happening, let alone how it happens."
Much of Angstrom's career was spent in advancing his thesis of alternate logics which was, of course, ridiculed by his peers. I remember Angstrom standing at the podium before an audience of five hundred skeptics at a meeting of the American Academy of Xeno-Technoarcheology in New York. The lights were bright for the video cameras and the sweat shone on his bald head. After he had finished his presentation, the first question from the audience was, "Are you really proposing the existence of a logic which is illogical to human minds, yet logical to other minds, and though illogical, yields conclusions that are correct?" The questioner was a confident young man who smelled blood and was eager to impress his professors. He was from what they call in America an Ivy League school. There was some laughter which the questioner allowed the audience time to enjoy before he added, "Perhaps you used this new logic to write your paper. That would explain a great deal."
Angstrom seized the edges of the podium in his gigantic hands and started to reply but his words were lost on the scientists all jostling for the exits.
After this, the sweating, malodorous, iconoclastic Angstrom became as welcome at scientific gatherings as Martin Luther at the Vatican. His papers, unwanted in the editorial offices of the journals of our field, were sent to his harshest critics for peer review.
When my book was rejected by the Curia, Angstrom still had his tenured position--in Quebec, I think it was. But by the time of the discovery of Paschal II his whole department had been eliminated. A purely financial decision, he was told, and nothing to do with the fact that this was the only way to fire a tenured full professor. At 50 years of age, with no family, friends or professional future, Paschal II was as good a destination for Angstrom as it was for me.
"Is professional vindication so important? I asked.
"No, but truth is," he said, and rolled over to sleep. The way he pulled his blanket over his shoulder made me think he was comforted by the discovery that we were following paths more similar than we had thought.
I was less certain. I lay in the dark, thinking of the Tower of Echo. The Roman poet Virgil wrote that bees were killed by echoes. (Those of us with time on our hands acquire arcane information. It is an occupational hazard of the priesthood.) Eighteen hundred years later Gilbert White, an English curate who was well-versed in Virgil and an excellent diarist, wrote that he spent a summer afternoon bending over his hives, shouting into a speaking trumpet to see if his bees would die.
Have I have already mentioned my love of metaphor?
The next day we came to the falls. The river poured over the escarpment, which was a steep, rocky cliff 200 meters high. We chose to climb close to the edge of the falls where winter floods had torn slabs of rock from the wall, affording an array of ledges and handholds. I said a brief prayer and started to climb. I planned to throw down a rope for the hules to climb. Angstrom would come last. Although he had lost weight steadily on Paschal, I thought I might have to use the hules to pull him up the cliff.
The rock was wet with spray and slippery with the green slime of algal life. I climbed for an hour, soaked, with my hair plastered to my head. I resting every few minutes by jamming my boots with their serrated soles onto some narrow ledge. Irritatingly, my laces became untied while I was climbing and no sooner had I retied one than the other came loose. When I looked down--which out of fear I did not do very often--I could see the four figures growing smaller far below, until they were tiny foreshortened dolls standing beside the churning whiteness at the bottom of the falls. The roar of the water drowned my shouted attempts to reassure them. My arms and shoulders, thighs and calves began to tremble until I scrambled over the top, dropped my pack to the ground and flopped down on the wet rocks like a landed fish.
When I got my breath I carefully knotted two lengths of rope together, tied one end to a tree that was firmly rooted between the flat rocks beside the river, and threw the other end over the edge. It was a black thing, snaking as it fell through the mist. Angstrom ran to it and I felt his tug. He handed the rope to one of the hules.
The hule climbed slowly, sensing the great danger. After 50 meters or so the hule's pack came loose. The pack swung by one strap. "Lord," I muttered. "Why didn't Angstrom check the knots?"
The pack swung away from the hule's shoulder, the second strap came loose and the pack fell away, tumbling through the spray down into the surging foam. Angstrom waved his arms at me as if to warn me.
The hule continued to climb. I watched his swinging movement, arm-over-arm, very ape-like, and when he was almost halfway up the cliff, just below the knot, I saw that the hule was M. Alain. As he reached for the knot, he fell.
At first I thought the rope had broken but then I realized that my elaborate knot had come undone. M. Alain fell away from the cliff with the loose rope twisting through the air around him like a black snake falling with him into the whiteness. He tumbled into the heart of the maelstrom at the bottom of the falls. I saw his head briefly bobbing in the surge and he was gone.
Angstrom and the other two hules waited for a long time, searching for M. Alain's body along the bank. In the late afternoon they all climbed up the falls, the hules following what was left of my scent on the wet rocks while Angstrom, who turned out to be an agile climber, urged them on from behind. It was evening when they reached the top and the sun was too low to light a fire. M. Jules kept looking down over the falls. Mlle. Marie crawled under a bush and curled up like a fetus.
"Maybe you should say a short requiem for him," said Angstrom.
"I can't do that for a hule. He had no soul."
"The other two might feel better if you did. Who's going to know? It's 50 light years from here to Rome."
But Canon Law applies wherever there are Catholics so I read some comforting words in a ceremonial way, a pseudo-service of no deeper significance.
We ate cold rations and settled down for a miserable night in the woods, shivering in our damp clothing.
I will always be grateful to Angstrom for saying nothing that night about my carelessness with the knot. I walked away from our camp to pray for forgiveness for my carelessness. Only those familiar with the confessional will understand the anguish this burden caused because I had no confessor.
I woke early and lay quietly in that stillness that comes at the end of the night. Here above the falls the forest canopy was lower and less dense and there were scattered grassy clearings. The raucous monkey birds were absent, but there were many new varieties of flying creatures, para-butterflies flapping their iridescent blue-green wings, warbling songs that were pleasing to my ears.
I dressed quietly but my laces would not stay tied. After the third attempt Angstrom, who was lying on his side watching me through half-closed eyes, said, "I think you're wasting your time. Above the falls we are closer to the AMF's source. We must have entered a region where mechanical friction is neutralized. Your lace relies on friction. Above the falls, knots are machines."
He was right. For days, M. Alain's truculent mind must have been more sensitive to the AMF. I was still responsible for his death, not through carelessness, but through blind stupidity, which was worse.
I set my boots aside. The friction buckles on our packs were useless and we could not tie the straps in place. The buttons on our torn clothes were also useless. We were forced to leave our packs behind, with all our supplies and food. I wrapped my books carefully, hoping to recover them on the return journey.
Our pace was slow because our soles were sensitive. A mile or two later, while we were climbing over some boulders, Angstrom's magnifying glass fell from his pocket and was smashed to pieces on a rock. The bottom seam of his pocket had unraveled.
"Sewing, weaving--they both rely on friction."
As we walked upstream all our seams were unraveling. The hules' coveralls hung in tatters and by lunchtime our clothing had literally fallen off our backs. Angstrom's white flesh wobbled on his body but the hules moved with a certain muscular grace I hadn't noticed before. Without the magnifying glass we could not light a fire that night and so we slept on beds of dry leaves that were still warm from the afternoon sun.
In this manner, naked, we wandered for days through this idyllic landscape, always staying close to the river. We ate fruits from the trees and I could see the fat was shrinking on Angstrom's flaccid body. At first I felt a certain shame about our nakedness. After all, I was a celibate priest. But as time passed I became comfortable with our situation.
At one time we walked for several days through grassy glades filled with wildflowers. Sometimes the stream (for that was what the river had become) widened and we would bathe our brown bodies in a warm pool. On other days the rain would wash the sweat and the dirt from our skins.
M. Jules and Mlle. Marie would wander off for hours and when they returned there was a certain glow about them. You might think they were sneaking off, but that is not the case. They just wandered off as if, like animals, they could do exactly as they pleased. Of course, now that we had no packs, there was no work for them to do. We were still their masters but we had no commands to give them. They spent more and more time by themselves. I suppose when they wanted to come back to us they could track us by our scent.
Angstrom and I, naked, with our hair uncombed and beards long, looked much like the hules. We wandered together through the dappled woods, eating when we were hungry, and resting when we were tired. We walked quietly, each with our own thoughts. Like the hules, we no longer had any tasks.
Above the falls our thought was clearer. "You are looking for a single truth that lies behind the dichotomy of careful reason and dogmatic faith," said Angstrom. "I am looking for a single truth that lies behind the dichotomy of quantum mechanics. The single truths we seek might be the same truth."
He was right. As soon as he spoke the idea seemed quite obvious. "Alien tech blends physics and metaphysics, spirit and matter," I said. "Behind the apparent dual nature of matter, behind the apparent dual nature of thought, there is a single fundamental truth. Alien tech is built on that truth. That truth is the secret the aliens hid here on Paschal and why they set their beacon to mark the hiding place."
The river had become much narrower. Inexplicably, the hules began to make fewer forays into the woods. One afternoon we came to the source of the river. A spring flowed from the base of a large rock into a pool. The water was quite clear and there was nothing at the bottom but a jumble of stones.
I knelt at the edge and dipped my hands into the water. Ripples spread across its still surface. I cupped my hands and lifted them. The water ran between my fingers and splashed and tinkled back into the pool.
The hules were watching carefully, waiting to see what we would do.
"You drink first," said Angstrom.
Once again I dipped my cupped hands into the pool and this time I lifted the water to my lips. The water was cold and refreshing.
I felt unchanged, at first.
Angstrom was looking at me, taut with curiosity.
"Drink," I said. "See for yourself."
He knelt beside me, bowed his head to the surface of the water and lapped at the water like an animal. When he straightened up he did not wipe the water from his lips and chin and it fell to the ground in shining droplets.
"Yes," he said, slowly. "I see."
Like me, he did not say what it was he saw. But I think he saw logics that were not human, ways of reasoning that were surprising and completely alien, hinting at larger truths than we had known before.
We sat in the shade of a small copse close to the pool.
"The temple is a library," I said.
We sat in silence for several minutes, inspecting the contents of our minds. Do not think we had experienced a transformation. Nothing was that simple. The best I can do is to tell you that we had been granted the potential for transforming ourselves, but the complete task assigned to us would require great effort and take many years.
The idea of transformation captivates me. I have come to realize that a man who truly transforms himself acquires the mysterious ability to help others transform themselves. Would you agree? I think any student of religion must.
We did know some new things that suddenly seemed quite obvious. "We can turn off the AMF any time we want," said Angstrom.
Like all alien tech, the trigger was intent. To turn it off, all we had to do was not to want to turn it off. I thought about this for a moment and rose to my feet, picked up a dead tree limb lying on the ground, put one end under a rock and levered the boulder from its resting place. Dozens of dull black insects scuttled away in the sudden sunlight, leaving behind hundreds of glistening eggs. I examined the stick. There was no frost on the branch, no brittle cracking of the gnarled wood, and my hands were still warm. I looked back at Angstrom and saw, behind him, the hules kneeling side by side and drinking from the pool, lapping noisily.
They raised their heads and looked back at us. The water was running from their snouts and their faces were impassive. They turned back to the water and drank again. M. Jules stood up and stared at us boldly, curiously. Mlle. Marie dipped her finger in the pool, walked to me and stood before me, her hand held before me, finger pointing down. A shining droplet hung from the end of her finger.
"Kneel down. Open your mouth," said Angstrom, hoarsely.
I opened my mouth. She held her wet fingertip over my waiting tongue. A single drop fell into my mouth. I swallowed.
The hules turned away and walked into the darkening woods. In a moment they had vanished between the trees.
The next morning Angstrom and I began our journey downstream to the falls.
The time after a climactic event is like the period of slack water after a high tide; all the work is done, there is no place for purposeful motion. During the days we traveled back to the falls Angstrom and I found it was thought, not motion, that was redundant.
At the top of the falls I untied the rope from the tree and wrapped it around my shoulder. After we climbed down beside the torrent we built a raft of driftwood bound with rope and we floated away on the slow-moving current.
On one of the many evenings that we lay on our backs, drifting downstream under the stars, Angstrom said, "If the aliens had a purpose, then what is the purpose of Paschal?"
"It is a beacon," I said.
"Marking a vast store of knowledge?"
"Yes, a font of knowledge. But there is more. Paschal is an evolutionary incubator, a machine for arresting the material evolution of matter and accelerating its evolution into spirit. What we have seen is the evolution of evolution."
"But why the amf?"
"To strip away the objects and the thoughts that we have made that make us what we are. Only when we have shed our manufactured burdens may we pass through the single narrow gate in our own garden wall and wander into other gardens."
Angstrom stayed behind at the temple where the knowledge of an ancient race was stored in a drop of water. He was eager to squeeze his frame through the narrow gate.
On my way back to the glider's crash site I thought of a Van Gogh painting called The Drinkers. A copy hangs on the wall of my whitewashed room. By the way, Van Gogh was said to be mad, but I doubt that. Four figures, a child, a youth, a middle-aged man and an old man, stand around a table and drink from a single pitcher. The child drinks milk, the youth water, the middle-aged man coffee and the old man wine, all from that single magical pitcher. Van Gogh's figures crackle with energy in their desperate attempts to slake their various thirsts. As I said, I doubt that Van Gogh was mad.
I returned to the crash site of the glider, slid the remote control from its pocket in the bulkhead and summoned the shuttlecraft down from the belly of the empty Chardin. Rome was surprised at my return. After all, the arrival in Earth orbit of a naked priest, bearded, long-haired, tanned and seemingly incoherent, is not a common event.
No one believed my story, of course. I half hoped they might see me as a prophet coming out of the wilderness, but they sent me back to this seminary and gave me easy work to do, as if I were an old nun. Obediently, I have done as my order wished. I have kept my peace and worked here quietly, thinking, making dreams. Twenty summers and three popes have come and gone and I am still working on the tasks assigned to me. All of them.
But the evening grows chill around us, the wooden bench you sit on is quite hard, and we must conclude our business. You have listened to my story and now I must answer your question.
Ah, do not speak yet. Did I not tell you I know what you came to ask?
There can be only one reason that the Holy Father has sent you here to question me in this peaceful garden. Something has happened, something quite unexpected. The Holy Father has received a message and he thinks it came from Paschal II.
Perhaps a passing freighter picked up a signal and relayed it to Rome, or perhaps a subspace message from the planet was received directly by a Vatican antenna at Castel Gandolfo, high in the Apennines. Not so. I know the message came in a dream. Yes, the Holy Father dreamed so vividly that he could not ignore his dream.
What is so surprising about the idea of the pope receiving a dream? After all, the Bible says that God spoke to many men through their dreams.
Have you ever noticed that dreams are much more powerful at the turning of the seasons? We religious have time to take note of subtle things like that.
So who sent the message? You probably think it was sent by the hules, or by their children who must have developed in unimaginable ways while they were growing up on Paschal? Or was the message from Angstrom, offering alien truth in place of human knowledge? Let me assure you that neither Angstrom, nor the hules--nor the aliens, if that is what you are wondering--have any interest in talking to the Holy Father.
He does not know who sent the message.
But I do, even though the dream he received was an unsigned invitation. The Holy Father has been asked to visit Paschal II. He feels he has been summoned. He wonders if he should think of the journey as a pilgrimage. He worries that the message may not be an invitation, but a false temptation sent by Satan.
The Holy Father wants to know if he should go. He is young and accustomed to dealing with facts, not dreams. After all, he is a scientist, a biologist of some renown, I hear. Weren't you surprised that a scientist, a biologist, a student of evolution, should be elected pope?
I wonder how that happened.
No matter. Here is my answer to his question: When he makes this pilgrimage he must remember the folk stories of the Auvergne.
You think that is no answer? I would have thought that you, a clever official of the Vatican, would have enjoyed my indirect response! Allow me to elaborate.
Like a folk hero of the Auvergne, when the Holy Father returns from Paschal he will be changed, and subtly wounded. Now do you understand?
What will this do to the world? Well, I have good reason to be certain that Aquinas was completely wrong. (You are right in your suspicion--before my trip to Paschal my obedience was not always perfect.) The Holy Father will return from Paschal with a radiant union of faith and reason which will wound the world.
Now do you understand?
Good. Why don't you sit here in the quiet darkness, in this arbor at the very end of this path of worn gray stones, and think about what I have said?
I must excuse myself and go to bed. Today was the last day of the summer and in the morning I must rise early to my work. In the new season I will be very busy pruning, cutting away dead growth, and tearing out old unwanted vegetation by the roots. Later I will be planting deep in the earth so that new flowers will flourish in the spring. After all, this is a big garden and the Holy Father might like to know that, quite recently, I have become the gardener.
Jim Cowan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is trained as both an electrical engineer and a doctor, and is a graduate of the 1993 Clarion SF workshop. He is amazed and delighted that many wonderful things in the world can be completely described by mathematics and he is equally amazed and delighted that many wonderful things, including mathematics, cannot. In addition to his stories in InterText, he has written two stories for the print magazine Century, and his story "The True Story of Professor Trabuc and his Voyages Aboard the Sonde-Ballon de la Mentalitie" will appear later this year in Asimov's Science Fiction. His story "The Spade of Reason" appeared in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois.
InterText stories written by Jim Cowan: "The Gardener" (v4n5), "Genetic Moonshine" (v5n3), "The Central Mechanism" (v8n3).
"The Gardener" appeared in the 1994 eScene Best-Of-Net-Fiction anthology.
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 5 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Jim Cowan.