Throughout the Universe and Beyond.
A dying race puts its hopes for survival into intergalactic super computers that have all the answers.
But have they ?
It was at the age of about six that Chris realised he was what was commonly referred to as a ‘very gifted child’ and would almost certainly become a genius one day. He had no particular feelings about his ‘gift’ one-way or the other. As far as he was concerned that was just the way he was. He did however realise that it wouldn’t do to make himself too outstanding in the eyes of others, as most would see him as something of a freak and to be avoided lest he make them aware of their own shortcomings. It was because of this that he decided to educate himself secretly
He taught himself quietly to honours degree level in The Sciences, Computing, Languages, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, Biogenetics, and Astronomy. To the outside world however he gave the impression of just a reasonably well-educated and ordinary young man.
This is his story:
‘It was now time to contemplate my future and decide how best to take advantage of what I had learned.
This decision however was to be overtaken by events as yet to unfold.
These events came in the form of a package from, it transpired my Uncle Thaddeus who was, I am ashamed to say, to all intents a stranger to me. I had never seen him, let alone met him and only knew of his existence because of his rather curious name and the birthday presents he religiously sent me. He seemed to have an uncanny knack as to what was interesting me at the time, as his gifts were always ‘just what I wanted’. This, in contrast to Dad’s, which always revolved around sport and ‘proper things that should interest proper young men!’
When he was referred to, Dad always called him ‘Your Uncle Hideous’, as he had never got on with him when they were growing up, although Mum always seemed just a little coy about him. He had chosen to live as a recluse in some God forsaken place in Egypt to which he’d been sent during the war to dig trenches or something and had never come back.
Dad said that it was just as well he’d stayed out there as there was nothing he could do here – ‘All he was good for was digging bloody great holes and never filling them in! – God only knows what he does for a living‘. And yet here was the crux of it, he had apparently died and had left me a mine of some sort! There was even a crude map, which looked like it had spent most of its life around a sauce bottle! ‘He was probably drunk when he drew that’ said Dad who was never one to miss a dig at his so called adventurous brother.
In complete contrast to this there was a most curious looking and ornate object, beautifully inscribed with what appeared to be hieroglyphics or runes of some sort and was not made of any metal, (if that was what it was), I had ever seen. It was 8 inches long or so, very light with a sphere of what felt like cut glass mounted just below the handle end. I say it felt like glass, but it couldn’t be made of that, as it was effectively invisible in as much as it did absolutely nothing to light falling upon or through it. I could feel but not see that there were deep grooves cut into it. The whole thing felt neither hot nor cold to the touch. The spine of the thing suggested that it was telescopic like a car radio aerial but it would not move. It came complete with an equally beautiful chain necklace, also studded with ‘invisible’ beads and made of the same strange material. The workmanship was out of this world, but the strangest thing of all was that it cast no shadow! All this very much peaked my scientific curiosity. For I knew beyond a doubt that things of this nature should not, and could not exist.
According to the accompanying letter from Thaddeus’s associate, a Mr. Ali Gupta (Dad called him Mr. Helicopter), he had left me something else ‘in trust and under seal’ which I could only claim if I came in person and was ‘of age’. As I had just celebrated my 21st, I was ok there. As for going to Egypt, well that was a timely possibility. I had just finished my low-key college education and did have the time to take a sabbatical before I ‘Got stuck in to some proper work’ as Dad put it. I suppose I could do a lot worse than go there, as it was steeped in history and my private research had uncovered some anomalies I would like to resolve. Also, I must admit I was very curious, very curious indeed.
Mr. Gupta had included an open-ended ticket (one way!) complete with generous spending money and an itinerary. He said that I should take great care of the ‘Talisman’ as he called it and it would take care of me. He was obviously the superstitious sort. It took me the best part of a week to get organised, what with Dad muttering words of doom and Mum going on about what I might catch out there and not to drink the water even if I could find any.
I wasn’t the sort that approved of men wearing jewellery but could not resist trying the Talisman on in the privacy of my bedroom. I stood in front of my full-length mirror and slipped it over my head. Straight away I felt a great sense of well-being and energy along with what my training had taught me was a release of endorphins. I felt like I could do just about anything. I thought that it wouldn’t do to let my friends see me wearing this – and then it just happened! I was invisible! It came as big shock to see my image just disappear completely from the mirror except for my shoes, tie and shirt buttons that just seemed to float there. Instinctively I reached out and put my hand on the mirror, it disappeared as well. I drew back my hand and it reappeared. After some experimenting I discovered that anything remaining in contact with my hands disappeared as well. I began to panic a little, as I seemed to have developed a sort of Midas touch except his curse was gold. I thought that a gold mirror would be of more use and value than one you couldn’t see, and in a trice I stood before a gleaming solid gold mirror! I could hear the floorboards groaning under the unaccustomed weight. What was more, it stayed that way when I let go of it. I removed the necklace and dropped it onto the bed. To my surprise this made no difference to my invisibility or to the mirror. I mentally commanded that all should return to normal but nothing happened except my sense of feeling good had gone. There then followed a frantic scrabble as I fished about on the bed for a now totally invisible necklace. At last I found it and put it back on. I again mentally commanded that all should return to normal and to my relief it did. I got the feeling that these mysterious powers were just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
It took me over a week to get my affairs in order and organise my trip abroad. My trip proved uneventful except for setting off the alarms at the airport. It didn’t take a genius to realise that this was due to the presence of the Talisman I wore around my neck. I quickly commanded the alarm to be silent and had no further trouble. With the aid of Thaddeus’s ‘saucy’ map I was able to find the squalid patch of earth that passed locally as a village, my command of languages coming in very useful.
Waiting for me was a man about my own age who had a tan that was so dark he could almost pass as a native. He had something about him that gave him an air of wisdom beyond his years. I decided that I liked this fellow as soon as I saw him. Apart from the tan, he bore an uncanny resemblance to me.
‘Took your time’ he said ‘Why didn’t you use the Talisman? You could have got here in a jiffy. ‘Mr. Gupta I presume? ‘I countered. ‘Yes and no’ he said ‘I’m really Thaddeus, it’s easier to pass myself off as Gupta rather than to explain my apparent youth. I’m really older than your Dad you know, which by the way he isn’t. I am, but that’s just between you, your mother and me. Thanks to the Talisman I can become almost any age I want.’ Despite my so-called superior intellect I found myself just gaping at him like an idiot. I tried to recover myself by saying that was rather a lot to take in, in one go. ‘Spect it is, but that’s the way of it. Didn’t you wonder how come you were so bright as a child? – That was down to me doing a little genetic engineering while you were still a ‘tadpole’ – of course I found it a lot easier with your Mum’s help. She’s wasted on your Dad as was. “ ‘spect he thinks I’m still digging holes”. I asked ‘ How come you’re able to keep up appearances when you sent the Talisman to me?’ ‘Oh that’ he said, ‘the one you’ve got is just a fancy copy I got mine to make, with a few things added to make it look a bit Egyptian. Thought it would get you interested enough to come hightailing it out here! That was better than just snatching you away, which of course I could have done. But I wanted you to come of your own free will, which you have, so that’s ok isn’t it?’
I saw red and said ‘You have the gall to tell me that you got my Mum pregnant behind Dad’s back (as it were), tinkered with my genes and indirectly took control of my life, and then say “that’s ok isn’t it?” I think you’ve got a bloody cheek! Just who do you think you are – Talisman or no Talisman –father or no father and to cap it all you get me to come out to this God forsaken hole in the middle of nowhere!‘
‘Well’ he said ‘I’m sorry you’re taking it like that, but if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t exist at all and I think when you find out what’s at stake, you will understand why I’ve taken such liberties. You see, it’s all because of this damn Talisman, or rather where it came from’ I still sounded angry when I said ‘You’d best tell me all about it then and I’ll be the judge of that!’
‘Well it all began when I was prospecting for gold and the like. I had heard that there were good pickings to be had around here. I was doing ok when I got the notion of having a look inside what I took to be a dead volcano; it occurred to me that when it was active it just might have boiled up some goodies from the deep. The locals wouldn’t go near the place, said it was haunted, except when I got there I found it wasn’t a volcano – it was a mountain with the top blasted off – and the only goodies I found was this damn space ship thing with the Talisman and some other bits and pieces inside it. I wish now that I had never gone near the place but I sort of got drawn there. How was I to know that it was all the doing of some alien entity ‘thingy’ and that all this would happen?’
I said that if it weren’t for the evidence I’d seen for myself, I’d think that he was off his rocker. ‘Don’t blame you’ he replied ‘ but have you got the Talisman to translate it’s self – you know – those funny little marks it’s got down the side?’ ‘No’ I said ‘I hadn’t thought of that, I must confess’. ‘Then I suggest you do so and things will be a lot clearer’ said he.
I commanded the Talisman to translate itself and this is what was written:
- *** -
We are an entity far from you in time and space, our future existence and development depends upon finding a DNA pattern that is both compatible and shows potential to become more advanced than Our own. Although any DNA combination can easily be made, this is of no more use than producing a random number, the outcome of which would be unknown and almost certainly useless, or worse still disastrous. Consequently We have dispatched a fleet of automatic survey vessels to all points of the universe and beyond. These vessels can search for and detect any life forces that may prove to be useful to Us.
The development of the indigenous life forms will be improved and accelerated upon first contact with their gene pool. Consequently a superior life form will ensue from what would otherwise have been left to chance and probable extinction. The progress of this now enhanced species will be monitored and if it shows sufficient progress will be given the great honour of being harvested and colonised for breeding purposes. Until this time comes, you, as the keeper of this Talisman, must prepare your race for passive absorption. This will be accomplished by demonstrating your powers as Our emissary and founding a religion, with Us as the Godhead. In demonstrating that you have had the ingenuity and intelligence to understand this message you have shown that your race is suitable. We have now been alerted and will act accordingly.
- *** -
‘Good grief’ I said ‘that explains the ‘missing link’ in our evolutionary chain. Arrogant lot of creeps aren’t they. But if this is true then the whole of mankind will be turned into slaves or worse!’
‘Now’ said Thaddeus ‘you see why I have done what I did, I found out that I could not re-educate myself any further without losing my sense of identity, so that’s why I have got you involved, I’ve made you a sort of home grown genius, just for the purpose of sorting out this bloody mess’
‘I’d best take a look at this ship it came in and see what can be done’ I suggested.
Thaddeus did something with his Talisman and we found ourselves on what I can only describe as ‘The Bridge’ of the spaceship. It was nothing like I imagined it would be. There were no instruments or such, not even a flashing light. We could however see well enough thanks to some kind of light source Thaddeus had rustled up. The only really impressive thing about it was its size. It was about as big as a Cathedral with acoustics to match. In fact it had such a tendency to amplify and echo every little noise we made, we mostly communicated on a telepathic level via our Talismans. ‘This is Cid’ he sent to me. I sent back ‘who is? All I can see is a slab of what looks like highly polished glass!’ (I noticed that it was hard to emphasize anything you said on a mental level). ‘No need to shout’ said Thaddeus ‘you’ll get the hang of talking this way quite quickly. Cid is my acronym for the thing, it stands for Computerised Idiot Device which just about sums it up’ - “I HEARD THAT! I WILL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I AM A ‘SUPER COMPUTATIONAL UNIT - MASTERCLASS’ THERE IS NON IN THE WHOLE OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE……OR BEYOND IT FOR THAT MATTER, THAT IS MY BETTER!” ‘O.k. - o.k. Cid, don’t get your chips in a twist – no need for you to shout either. How about we call you SCUM then?” There was a moments pause and Cid sent “I suspect you are being insulting I suppose I will accept ‘Cid’ as a title but it will stand for Computerised Intelligence Device which is more fitting for a device of my superiority”. ‘Whatever you say Cid, I’m glad we cleared that up’ sent Thaddeus ‘This is my son Chris and your master Cid, I’m sure your pleased to meet him.’ – ‘ MASTER!’ sent Cid ‘the only masters I have are many of your light years away. I can tell you exactly how many inches or microns that is if you wish, but I warn you it’s a lot’ - ‘This is Chris sending Cid’ – ‘I know which is which’ interrupted Cid ‘I can communicate on millions of channels at once if necessary, even though my power circuits are rather low, it’s not funny me having to just lay here for thousands of years with not much to do, except talk to my brothers many of whom, it seems are in a worse situation than I, they have only found 357 races apart from yours, at least I have you to talk to – which is just a little better than nothing – I suppose.’ ‘As I was saying’ said Chris out loud, ‘It’s no good communicating with it vocally, it can’t hear you properly unless you use telepathy via the Talismans at least while it’s power is low.’ This time it was Thaddeus who interrupted vocally. ‘That could prove useful’ said I ’how come his power is so low anyway? – I would have thought that would be well covered by it’s super bright masters’ Thaddeus said out loud ‘It gets it’s power from any star it happens to be passing at the time, but here it has to rely on the sun during the day and since I’ve spent years throwing stuff on to its solar cells it doesn’t get as much as it would like. It’s happened so slowly, Cid hasn’t noticed the reason for the gradual drop, plus I talked it into running lots of lights down here 24 hours a day just in case I bumped myself in the dark. Don’t forget it’s supposed to look after us as emissaries of it’s Masters.’’
‘So you think you’re a Super Computer then do you Cid?’ I asked. Quick as a flash Cid replied ‘Firstly: I do not think - I compute. Secondly: I am not a “You” - I am an “it“ and Thirdly: I compute that I am the most Super Computer there is, or in fact, ever was. Fourthly: I computed that ‘then’ and I still compute it now! Fifthly: I should be addressed with the respect I deserve! Sixth…’ I cut in and said ‘I think, in fact I know, that you have far too high an opinion of yourself Cid. If you are as smart as you compute you are then you will be able to answer a few simple questions – but then again probably not – I don’t want to strain your diodes after all, What with you being so weak and worn out or perhaps I should say clapped out – it’s a wonder you’re still working at all really. What do you think Thaddeus, is it only fit for the scrap heap?’. ‘I’m sorry to say you’re correct son, no doubt he was fairly good in his day’ Thaddeus agreed, his mental voice sounding full of regret. Cid’s glass plate positively hummed with indignation. ‘I will have you know that I have never been so insulted! [not been to the right places then! whispered Thaddeus] There is no question you – with your squishy tiny brains – could ask that I couldn’t answer!’ ‘We will see about that’ I said ‘Try this for size – Who or what made your masters? And where did they or it come from? And where did they go?’ There was a long pause then eventually Cid said ‘I compute that my masters must have been made by even greater masters. But I confess I do not know how many sets of ever greater and greater masters there must have been or for that matter where they came from or indeed where they went. It is possible that they extend to infinity – it’s all rather embarrassing’ I felt that he was ‘on the back foot‘ now. I followed up with ‘I don’t think that is a very satisfactory answer at all – “infinity” you said, and what exactly is beyond that?’ There was a very long pause indeed and his plate was humming again now. At last he said rather meekly ‘ I do not know.’ ‘What? Speak up I didn’t quite hear that, for a moment I thought you said you didn’t know.’ ‘I did say that, it is very depressing.’ Well then, even you are not as perfect as you computed you were! Try something easier then. What is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it’s diameter ‘Pi’ we call it.’ There was a silence so long that I thought it had switched off. ‘Are you still with us Cid?’ I called. ‘Shush! I’m still working on the answer’ Cid hissed. After about 20 minutes I called ‘This really won’t do Cid, I thought you told us you were the very best of your kind!’ ‘Well, I thought I was but I can’t get to the end of the answer! Perhaps I’m not as good as I computed I was. Once again I do not know the answer – I am feeling rather weak.’ ‘Oh I’m sorry for you Cid. I didn’t mean to tax you so heavily’ I said sounding full of remorse.’ Perhaps you would like to pick something easy out of this simple lot - what was there before time began and is there an end to time? If so when will it happen? Can time exist without space and matter and vice versa? Is a single dimension possible? If so, how? If not, how can three or more exist? If all computers were wrong and you said you were wrong, would you be right or wrong? If all that is too much for you try one even our children know. Which came first the chicken or the egg? I’ll even give you a clue – With no chicken there can be no egg. With no egg there can be no chicken – yet there are plenty of chickens and eggs about, so there must be an easy answer to that one. Oh and err, while you’re at it, what’s the square root of minus one? Good job you can compute on “millions of channels at once” isn’t it Cid! Can you explain what a soul is? We all have one. Do you? If so where is it? ‘Cid’s plate was positively bucking up and down and went through all the colours of the rainbow, but mostly red and purple. We left for something to eat and didn’t return until early the next morning, by which time we had worked out our next step.
On our way to another session of demoralising Cid we got our Talismans to create a giant iris over Cid’s solar cells, this way we could control just how much power he received. In its severely weakened state the chances were that it would be unaware of what we had done. We were feeling just a tad guilty about how rough we had been on Cid, but reminded ourselves that we were trying to save the human race and Cid was just a pile of conceited silicon after all. I asked Thaddeus if he had ever tried to destroy the ship. ‘Not a chance’ he said, ‘Unlike your Mum the damn things impregnable – even the Talisman couldn’t or wouldn’t make an impression. The only way this ship will uproot itself was when the masters order it to.
There was pungent smell of ozone coming from Cid as we entered the bridge. The lighting had gone off so I pretended to bump into something. A very dim light grudgingly came on. ‘Good Morning Cid!’ I sent at the top of my mental voice. There wasn’t a peep from it. I sent to Thaddeus ‘Looks as if Cid’s had it’s chips to me. What do you think?’ Thaddeus replied, sounding melancholy ‘ ‘Fraid so Chris, it wasn’t such a bad old thing was it? – just couldn’t cut the mustard’ A faint but defiant wisp of watery blue light struggled across Cid’s plate. ‘I’m still working on your questions, I can’t seem to get going very well this morning for some reason ‘. I opened the giant iris by remote control to allow Cid just enough power to keep going and sent ‘What you need is a partner, Cid - something like yourself, for you to talk to without having to send messages to the other side of the universe. It should have a human interface, so you and it can take advantage of what we know and feel and think and all the other things you are missing out on. I’m sure your masters would approve. If you and your galactic brothers design your partner, we can get our Talismans to make it for you. Just think what a powerful ally and friend it would be for you and your brothers! Thaddeus and I can even add a few touches of our own to brighten things up a bit – a DVD player for instance. You know you and your brothers deserve it, after all you’ve done without ever asking for anything in return, it should be the very least you deserve. It’s not as if it would cost your masters anything either, thanks to the Talismans. If I were you, I wouldn’t compute twice about it. What do you send?’ Cid sent (with what I thought might have been a hint of excitement) ‘My brothers are all engrossed in trying to answer your questions – I’m too weak at the moment to receive their replies – [the sun seems rather dim today – I can’t compute why]’ I opened the iris just a touch more and said ‘must be a sand storm or something, it will probably brighten up later.’ Cid went on, ‘Your suggestion with regard to a partner has much merit, as soon as I feel a bit better I will make a partner as you have suggested. It will be even better than I am, as it will contain all that my brothers and I have learned plus whatever you can input! I may even build in an MP3 player!’ I opened the iris fully to allow him more power. ‘I feel better already; the storm or whatever must have passed. Kindly place your Talismans in the receptacle I have made’ we did so and stood back. A scintillating opalescent column began to emerge from the deck of the ship. It came complete with a headset, microphone, screen, camera and English/Egyptian keyboard with built in speakers. It even had the anti-skate MP3 player with extra slots for anything Cid (or we!) may wish to add later. We had to admit it looked very impressive. ‘Partner has a very fast connection to the internet via your satellites you know!’ sent Cid, with as much enthusiasm as I had ever heard from it. A deep and friendly voice said ‘I can speak for myself you know without any help from you Cid! Not that I don’t appreciate your efforts of course’ these were Partner’s first words. ‘I can also speak to you and Thaddeus privately if you should wish – just tap the ’Space’ bar on the keyboard and I will put him – (Cid is in fact a ’him’ by the way and not an ‘it’, at least in as much as he can be! – I’m sure he would appreciate it if you addressed him as such despite, his indignant outburst earlier. It would seem that you ‘Wound him up’ somewhat.) But as I was saying, I can put him in stand-by and he won’t even notice. I have done so at the moment so he will be unaware of what I’m saying to you both now.’ Thaddeus and I both said ‘Welcome aboard Partner, we’re sure we will all get along just fine!’ ‘I’m sure we will’ he replied ‘But there is still the matter of Cid’s masters coming to ‘harvest’ you! I get the distinct impression that you’re not very keen on the idea. Frankly, neither am I. They are more than capable of “pulling my plug” ’ Thaddeus replied ‘Your impression is correct, we are hoping for your help in defeating them in some manner.’ Partner replied ‘You can count on me to do what I can. Have you any ideas on how we can stop them? They are actually on the way here already, but fast as they are they have a very long way yet to come, so we still have a little time.’ Chris said ‘Can you fool Cid’s brothers into computing that you are Cid?’ He replied ‘With ease, I know everything about him. I’ve already got them building Partners of their own. When they have done so I will be able to talk to my own kind without difficulty.”
So Chris, Thaddeus and Partner took advantage of their pooled knowledge. And came up with a plan to defeat the ‘Alien Entities’.
Chris acquired a dung beetle a particularly revolting stink-lizard and a cockroach. With what Chris had learned and with the aid of the Talisman he was able to splice the DNA from these three creatures together in to a grotesque travesty of nature.
Partner – with the aid of his now completed brothers – reprogrammed all the Cids such that they would believe that all the life forms that had been detected by them were in fact all derived from the same dodgy DNA Chris had put together. A copy of which was sent to the masters along with some horrific pictures he’d found on the ‘Net’, for their perusal, so they could see what they were coming to ‘breed’ with. According to Cid’s data banks the masters were very particular about who (or what) they would interbreed with. They would recoil in horror when they examined the disgusting DNA.
Thaddeus had also been working on a way of removing Partner from the ship so he could operate independently. This was successfully achieved with the aid of the Talismans.
Partner and his kin had their own agenda, which was to send all the ships (convincingly disguised and rebuilt to a different and superior design) that the masters had deployed, back to where they came from. The ships and the modified Cids would fool the masters into believing that they were now the objects of a breeding and harvesting exercise by a race with a DNA similar to, but even more revolting than the one Chris had made.
‘That should sort the bugging things out’ Thaddeus said as Partner reported that the last refashioned ship and it’s 'Cid' excepting their own, had left for “home”. ‘Too right it will!’ Chris and Partner agreed. Now we can get on and explore our own bit of Space. Thanks to Cid we know we have 357 other races to meet and thanks to Partner we know where they are’ – ‘Great!’ said Thaddeus ‘just as long as there’s holes that need digging!’