Raymond Owen

The Guardeniers

Like most great inventions the `Space Fold Drive` (also known as SFD) is really very simple. Take a large sheet of paper and draw a small cross on one side close to the edge. It might help if you actually get a piece of paper and do this yourself as you read. Now draw another small cross on the opposite side. Let’s pretend these crosses are two planets, now draw a straight line from one cross to the other. The line is the route we would take to go from one planet to the other. Now take a pin and make a small hole on the line next to one of the crosses. Keep pricking holes as close together as you can along the line. Let’s pretend the distance between each pin prick is a million times a million miles. So you keep going until you reach the other planet but it takes quite a while. That is how we would travel, in a rocket from one planet to another, from here to there in a straight line through space.
Now let’s make the same journey the way the Guardeniers would. Take your piece of paper with the two crosses on it and fold it so the centre of each cross lines up. Now take your pin and pierce the paper through the two crosses at once. That’s it, journey over. You have travelled from one planet to the other instantly. All you need to know is how to fold space and how to use a ghost- generator. Folding space is easy;  you just need the right kind of mathematics. A ghost-generator makes a computer copy of your space craft so detailed that every atom is copied. When the copy is complete it is called a ghost. When the computer is told to move the `ghost` space craft to a given co-ordinate the real space craft follows it. This can only happen because the space craft doesn’t have to actually move at all. The real space craft is so close to the ghost space craft that we couldn’t even measure it. Just like the two crosses you drew were when you folded the paper and they touched each other. When the ghost-generator is turned on the large black space craft shines with a golden glow. When the computer moves the ghost space craft to its journeys end on the space fold map the real space craft gives a slight twitch and follows it.
The Guardeniers spend most of their time making maps. Without their maps they couldn’t travel through space so easily. When exploring new territory they send out an `eye`. The `eye` looks like a black football covered in sensors, probes, cameras and scanners. Using the ghost-generator they send the eye through space ahead of them like a scout. If the `eye` returns unharmed the Guardeniers study what it can tell them before following in the larger space craft. This way they leap-frog through space making their maps and checking on any planets where they know there is life. The space craft is usually about the size of a house, mostly round with a flat bottom. They are such a dark shade of black it hurts your eyes to look at them. This is quite deliberate as once they arrive in space they are nearly invisible.
The Guardeniers themselves are a lot like us to look at with a few small differences. They are slightly taller than most humans and their skin is pale blue. Their hair is dark blue and their eyes are silver-grey. When they are working they wear robes like monks do. All the robes are green. Dark green for the senior Guardeniers through to pale lime green for the juniors. From a distance a crowd of them look like leaves in a forest. Their home planet `Saed` is similar to earth except there is no autumn or spring. There is a summer and a winter but the plants do not die in the winter or bloom in the spring. All of Saeds plant life is constantly growing and changing. A Guardenier never needs to build a house, he grows one. Children on Earth build themselves tree-houses. The Guardeniers know how to make trees grow with rooms already in them. It takes time so they have to plan ahead but it’s worth it. Everything on Saed is `grown` not manufactured. Growth can be frozen when complete or altered in size.  The space craft’s outer shell is made from the bark of the `Armour-Tree` then grown together with the interior. The computers are fields of `Brain-Plants` linked by `Fibre-Optic-Weeds` to `Glass-Leaves`. Another type of glass-leaf is grown into the windows of their house-trees. All of the Guardeniers needs are provided for by what they grow. Their love of nature has reached the point where it has become a give and take relationship. When possible they like to travel by horse-back. For longer journeys they use a small version of the SFD (Space Fold Drive). You can safely say that if a Guardenier is not in space they are growing something. A typical space craft would be run by a crew of about seven Guardeniers. Whoever was in charge would be called Father or Mother, the rest were either Sister or Brother followed by their own names. Because of the way the SFD works a Guardenier who was away from `Saed` mapping in space for two years would only have spent about two days in the space craft before returning. Before young Guardenier couples marry or leave home they plan and plant their `house-tree`. These only take about seven years to grow.  While the house is growing the couple volunteer for a space mapping trip. When they return after spending just one week in space the house is ready. There are thousands of mapping trips taking place all the time. This is why most Guardeniers live for a very long time. The space craft have at least one couple on board. Some have whole families.
The space craft that concerns us is the `Anthera`. It was on a mapping trip and also had to make a routine check of the planet `Earth` before returning to `Saed`. Father Willard sent the `eye` to a position just above the surface of our moon on the dark side, hidden from `Earth`. While the `eye` was doing its job of checking the area Father Willard tapped a large glass-leaf which glowed itself awake. The fibre-optic-weed to which it was attached pulsed a soft pink glow. Gently stroking the edges of the glass-leaf in the right places Father Willard called up all the information he had about planet `Earth`. The entry he found was from one thousand Earth years ago. It wasn’t a very big entry. After all the details about the planet itself came the lists of plants and animals. Right at the end were a few words about us humans.
`This is a young planet with great promise but the ruling species (humans) only care about who owns which bits. They make little attempt to harmonise with nature and have no idea what they are missing. We can only hope they grow out of this stage soon.`
The entry was signed by one `Father Denton` who went on to suggest an early return to this troubled young planet to check on its progress. Father Willard smiled and thanked Sister Faine who had just placed a mug of tea at his side. Her pale green robes very different from his own holly-leaf colour. A soft popping noise told Father Willard that the eye had returned unharmed. Brother Derwin attached the end of a fibre-optic-weed to the eye while Father Willard fixed the other end to his glass-leaf. The information began to download. While that happened Father Willard prepared to start a new entry. The first entry by Father Denton had been entitled `Earthday One`. As Father Willard wrote the words `Earthday Two` he hoped that this would be a better report.  All new entries were written by hand before being downloaded to the crafts memory. The hand written copy would be read by everyone on board before being saved. The small ghost-generator that controlled the eye was shut down. When the information from the eye had been checked and double checked the main ghost-generator was started. A soft hum could just be heard as it powered up. Every part of the craft began to glow with a pale golden halo. When the right time came Father Willard placed both hands on the edges of the glass-leaf and felt for the launch contacts. There was a slight twitch as the ghost craft moved and the golden glow disappeared. The `Anthera` clung to its twin like a magnet and made the jump. For those on board it felt like everything winked in and out of existence with a flash of total blackness. Every ones stomach did a lurch as a feeling of dropping down a well came and went. Seconds later it was all over and the `Anthera` hovered just above the moon’s surface. Father Willard lowered the craft softly onto the moon’s surface. The next task was to launch several long distance eyes to the other side of the moon to start reporting on planet `Earth`. When this information began to feed back to the `Anthera` Father Willard could not believe what he was seeing. Planet Earth was a disaster. An emergency meeting was held in the dining area. When every seat was taken Father Willard wiped a tear from his cheek and lowered his head. After a short silence he began to speak in a low sad voice.
`Never in all my time have I seen such destruction. These `humans` have the most advanced forms of communication I have ever seen. Any one of them can talk to anyone else on the whole planet, and see them as well. They have freedom of speech and choose to say nothing. Every one of them must know they are destroying the only home they have. There are a few who are starting to worry but too few to turn things around. They are still more worried about who `owns` which bits. They are like children fighting over a toy, the fighting destroys the toy and nobody gets anything. This planet is very similar to our own so what I am about to tell you will come as a nasty shock. We all know how much we love and depend on our trees. On planet Earth one and a half acres of rainforest are destroyed every second. Yes, I did say every `second`. Just that on its own means that Earth is losing 137 species of plant, animal and insect life every day.`
A gasp of shock went round the seated figures and Father Willard paused while tea and biscuits were shared out. Suitably refreshed Father Willard continued;
`In the last thirty years planet Earth has lost one quarter of its land animals, one quarter of its sea animals and one third of its freshwater animals. This is the worst period of widespread extinction in the planets history and it is all due to human disruption of the eco system. On another subject the glaciers are now moving into the sea at two metres an hour and a place called Greenland has enough ice to raise sea levels by several metres.`
The Guardeniers looked at each other in shocked confusion. How could things have been allowed to get this bad? Before the questions could start Father Willard carried on;
`Since we were here last these humans have never stopped being at war. They have killed thousands of millions of their own kind in many different wars over who owns which bits of land.
It would have been better for the planet if they had wiped each other out. However, that is not our choice to make. Before we leave here we must choose a course of action that will stop this madness.’
This posed a major problem for the Guardeniers who were bound by their own code of practice.  Firstly they were not allowed to reveal their presence either in person or by communication of any sort. Also they were not allowed to take away or add to any civilization they discovered, either by knowledge or material.  All forms of destruction were forbidden as was the creation of any natural disaster. The decision on how to stop a race from destroying its planet was normally made by an elected council of elders back on Saed. This usually involved sending in several Guardeniers suitably disguised to blend in. They would work themselves into influential positions and gradually steer things in the right direction. Which is all very well when you have the time.  Father Willard knew that ‘time’ was a luxury they didn’t have. Something must be done to save this planet and it had to be done quickly.
                                                                                                 THE BRITISH HIKER
Every year Chris Ricketts would take himself off on a hiking and camping holiday. This year he intended to hike from one end of the Brecon Beacons to the other walking from west to east.  He was taking the train from Shrewsbury to Llandeilo where he would hike up to Bethlehem to begin his ninety odd miles journey. The trip could be done in eight days but not for one such as he who was fond of real ale. The next stop after Bethlehem would be Carreg Cennen Castle where he would camp for the night. He smiled to himself as he realised that he would be travelling from Bethlehem to Holy Mountain. That being what Skirrid Mountain at the end of his journey was known as.
‘If they aren’t good names for a pilgrimage I don’t know what is.’ He mused as the train slowed for his stop.  As he cleared the station grounds he sought out a pub with a garden where he could enjoy his ‘Calabash Pipe’ before starting out towards   Bethlehem.  It was nearly mid-day when Chris decided against a second pint of  Felinfoel Stout and turned to the east to begin his adventure. It didn’t take long to reach Bethlehem so he decided to strike out south towards Carreg Cennen Castle. The route would take him through the middle of Garn-Goch Iron Age Fort, which dates from 300BC. As he left the tiny village he made a mental note to return here in December to post all his Christmas cards. The Bethlehem post mark would be a nice touch.  It was a hot August day and the back pack grew heavier as the miles fell behind him. After a look round the castle Chris found a small clearing in some nearby woods and unpacked his pop up tent for the night. Supper time consisted of some sausages he had bought in Llandeilo that he cooked on his camping stove and ate with a fresh loaf from a village he had passed through. This was washed down with a bottle of ale and followed by a piece of Kendal Mint Cake. Chris lay on the grass and stared up at the sky. There was hardly any light pollution in this area so the stars were gloriously bright. There were certain things Chris never took on these jaunts.
Top of the list was a mobile phone. No radios either, or a laptop. His one concession was a small MP3 player loaded with his favourite Jan Garbarek albums. That and some top end headphones. The moon was nearly full and his little clearing was bathed in pale blue moonlight as if the whole scene were underwater. Jan’s saxophone lifted his spirits as it always did and Chris awoke several hours later ready to crawl into his sleeping bag. In the morning Chris washed with some bottled water that he would re-fill at the first stream he could find. After a light breakfast of hard boiled eggs and a mug of tea he broke camp and started walking east. By the end of the day he had started to leave behind the lanes and occasional dwellings. Now he was in the National Park ‘proper’ and unlikely to see another soul all day unless a hiking party was coming towards him from the east.  On the third day the heat was really uncomfortable and as he squinted up at the sun he was sure he was hallucinating. The sun seemed much larger than it normally was. Half an hour later he looked up again and it was even bigger. ‘I must have heat stroke’ he said to himself. Taking no chances he sheltered under a large stony outcrop and tried not to panic. It was late in the day so he decided to rest here for the night. A simple can of soup was all he could manage to eat and afterwards he lay in the cool and waited for night time. It had been a long tiring day and Chris fell asleep long before night fall.
When he eventually woke up he thought he was still asleep and having a nightmare. He was still under the stony outcrop which was a huge obsidian canopy that sheltered him from the moonlight. That moonlight was unlike any he had ever seen. It was blindingly bright and Chris had to shield his eyes as he stumbled out from his shelter. Squinting upwards he beheld the bloated gibbous moon. It was much larger than it was meant to be. This was no trick of the atmosphere as sometimes happens. This was an abomination. This was the stuff of madness. Tears of self pity coursed down his cheeks and his chest heaved as he was racked by sobs that were not just for him but for all mankind. Then high above him he heard the unmistakable screech of a Tawny Owl.  
                                                                                             FATHER WILLARDS CHOICE
The solution came to him that night as he slept and was seconded and passed the next day. It was not nearly as difficult as it first appeared. They had all the details they needed and by a combination of their DNA manipulation techniques and some target parameters being set they were able to set in motion a solution that would buy them the time they needed to return to Saed and seek advice.
In order to minimise casualty’s the action would take twenty four hours to implement. The whole of mankind was to be physically diminished in size to a new average height of just twenty five centimetres.

                                                                                                           THE END                            

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Raymond Owen.
Published on e-Stories.org on 16.11.2014.

 

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