Preamble: This the fifth chapter of a serialized science-fiction novellette concerning failures of fidelity in the transmission of culture. (Previously: Chapter 1, and Chapter 2, and Chapter 3, and Chapter 4)
by Cheeseburger Brown
PART I, Chapter 5.
There was a big fat inquiry. I wasn't invited. The mayor of mayors let me sleep in his stable. When it was all over he wasn't burned or even fired. "Desperation puts wisdom within reach of whoever," he told me.
I nodded. "Totally."
Twenty-four of the strange tubes was gathered from the smash. Each tube had a peep or parts of a peep inside. Teams of queers were enlisted to help me connect galvanic leads from each of the tubes to the lightning rod erected at the top of a nearby hill. The rod had been tinkfully builded according to instructions from a book so bookish every other thing it sayed was telling about other books. When the rod was sticked in a place squadrons of dancers set to work calling on a storm, working in shifts throughout the day and night.
On the third day a way big-ass dust-storm swept in and turned the sky brown with flashes of purple lightnings. The rod, its tip anointed with all of thunder's favourite oils, absorbed at least a dozen lightnings. In response the tubes growled and chirped and their bellies illuminated with malarkiful symbols that looked a little bit like classical writing but not enough that I could read it. It didn't way matter cause most of the tubes popped right open.
Dead bodies comed out of some of them but out of a different some of them comed bodies which were at least a bit alive. They were ferried to the tent of the barber-surgeon for the attentions of his staff of expert healers. In a blink the survivors were plastered with sticky prayer papers and having blessed water dripped on their foreheads urgently. The air ringed with medical incantations.
By morning twelve beds was still occupied by living patients. By noon one of them had started to stir.
The report from the first interviews was dramatic: the survivor's language was not made of proper words peeps could understand, aside from several blasphemous references to anti-founderite concepts. It was considered likely that he suffered from cooties, and possible that he was saying something that resembled Classical English. How to go? There was only one choose.
The tent flaps were tied closed behind me as I stepped inside the sick room. Shafts of sunlight from the flaps above cut through the gloom, lighting up motes and sparkles of random chi in the air. I started walking toward the bed but then stopped for a while, sweating. I forced myself forward.
"Yo," I sayed gently. "What's up?"
The man's eyes narrowed. It sounded like he sayed, "What did you say?"
"Can you tink well me?"
"Some. A little. It'd help if my implant wasn't dunged."
"Mr. Christ, my name is Jolly. I am this community's douche."
"What? You're what? A witch?" he sayed and then, after cocking his head, "Did you call me Mr. Christ?"
"Did I fuck up the protocol? Should we be calling you just normal Jesus?"
"You faith I'm Jesus Christ?"
"It was an educated guess. I mean, obviously you're a hero of the pre-founderite era long gone but with a promise of return. If not Jesus Christ could you be Elvis? Or Batman?"
"My name is Captain Gateway. Captain Conifer Gateway of the War Armada, Seventh Division. Serial number nine-nine-two-seven six-five-one-one-zero eight-four-two-seven."
"I've never heard of you," I admitted. "Your legend must be losted."
"We were part of the last sweep. Final planetary survey before the withdrawal. Our yawl caught a gamma bombardment from that coronal discharge two days ago: we loosed helm and crashed."
"So you did indeed travel from Heaven?"
"From Heaven? You mean like the afterlife? Um, no. We launched from the Pilgrim's Castle; she's in a wide orbit through the terrestrials, touching the Joviat every two years. Empty for decades now, naturally."
"I can't understand you. I'm asking where you and your peeps set out from. Where's your home?"
"Our home? Our home is War."
I blinked. "You're…you're anti-founderites."
"The peeps who erred. The banished. Those condemned to agony in eternal war."
"Well I hate to break it to you but we're just now capping off three centuries of unbroken peace in the system."
"This system. The Solar System."
"The crack between our languages makes it hard for me to tink well you, Captain Gateway."
"Listen, miss, this planet -- this is the Earth, right?"
"Yes. Well, of course. Where could you be if you wasn't on Earth? In the sky?"
"In the sky, sure. There's a dozen worlds in the sky. War is one of them. Just like the Earth. Mountains, clouds, rain, oceans -- the works."
"Another world? One that isn't the afterlife?"
"Right. Another planet. Does that word tink well you?"
"It means drunk star."
"Sort of. This is a planet. We're on a planet now. This planet's name is Earth. I was born on the next planet over. It's called War. But now we're all leaving War. We're all leaving all our homes everywhere."
"Cause the sun is fully busted."
I feeled faint. My vision sparkled and blurred. I stumbled backward and caught a hold of the tent's central pole to steady myself. The shafts of sunlight wobbled as the material danced at my lurch. My own voice feeled distant and strange as it asked Captain Gateway to repeat his blasphemy.
"No wonder you are losted," I finally managed to whisper. "You've been polluted by the lies of the anti-founderites and turned your back on true causation. There is no more evil a suggestion than to joke that our beloved sun would betray us and become a monster. There is no cause to tink that way. No real cause. The sky isn't falling. Skies can't fall."
Captain Gateway smiled sadly. "You couldn't persuade me of that. You're telling at somebody who's been on the other side of the sky. This sky, other skies. Just an envelope of gas, every one of them. Planet farts."
"The sky is the one causal breath of Causation Prime itself!"
"Sorry miss, but that's not so. It's just a vapour clinging to a ball, like a thousand others. And not for very much longer. Solar turmoil is ramping up fast. The system's days are numbered. All these worlds will soon be dust."
"You faith apocalypse is coming out?"
"All peeps will perish?"
"All peeps left behind in the world, definitely. No doubt about it."
It was a central tunk of non-circular historicology that history had a beginning and must therefore have an end. Never the less, confronting the possibility of the event's factual reality left me breathless and scared. "And you are prepared, Captain Gateway, to totally confess your heresy before Prime?"
"Nah," he sayed. Gingerly he sitted up in bed and cracked his knuckles. "I'm going to call for rescue, instead. We're going to call War."
"And your peeps will come?" "I sure hope so. No offence, but I'd rather not see out the end of my days in the company of some flea-bited pack of primitives."
"We are the inerrant people, sir. We follow the findings without wavering. You call me primitive, but you're the one with a mouth full of blasphemy."
"Blasphemy just means scary tinks. And not all scary tinks are scary cause they're evil. Sometimes they're scary cause they're true." He shifted on one elbow and leaned closer at me. "The sun factually is dying, girl. Trust me, we're sure. We're the ones who fucked it up. But civilization is packing up shop and starting out for a fresh start at a new star. This isn't the end."
"I can't tink what to report to my peeps. I can't repeat your ravings. I'll get totally killed."
"We'll need to rig a beacon. Do your peeps have microwave amplifiers?"
"I don't faith so."
"Radio transmitting array?"
"Way basically no."
For the first time the brave captain seemed factually emotioned. "You're technologically bereft, aren't you?"
"Not at all! Our looms are top-notch."
"The tailors in town can crank out a patterned blanket in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
He sighed and lied back on his bed again. Quietly he sayed, "Dung."