That Thou Art Mindful

       "But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet."
       Jerry LaSaille put down the book. **The writer of that never stood among the stars.**
       The Ane chewing her cud next to him flicked an ear. **How can I help?**
       LaSaille sighed and walked to edge of the house. **Lost with all hands.**
       **Is there no hope?**
       **No, the Armstrong found her adrift, twisted wreckage. The recorder marker was never launched. What ever got Constellation, got her fast.**
       **Do you plan to attend the memorial?**
       **No, it still takes too long to get back to Earth.**
       **Via express?**
       **Thanks, but no, I'm skipping this one. Too many funerals in one life. I don't know if I can bear to hear Admiral Calista mouth those worn out words about "...being brave in the face of danger, going forth to conquer the unknown." I've mouthed them myself, and I don't want to hear them again.**
       **Do you think we should stop?**
       **No, but we could, I think, be a little more honest about the risks we undertake. Why can't we say, it's dangerous, sometimes people get killed and that sucks. Why can't we say that?**
       **You could you know. If you show up doubtless you will be asked to speak as a former Captain.**
       **And set the lot back on their heels? Would what I say offend, or inform? Offend I think. People don't want the truth at funerals. The truth can hurt, and they are hurting enough.**
       **The truth will set you free.**
       **Some people love their chains. Let's go up to the Kongo. I want to see how the work is coming.**

       "Yes, Mr. LaSaille, we found a pair of cherry magnatomic warp drives of the right specifications."
       "You have acquired them?"
       "Yes Sir. They should be here in a couple of months."
       "Good. I like the way things are shaping up in the sick bay....".
       One of the workmen popped his head in the office. "Mr LaSaille, there is a Captain Levyson to see you."
       "Thank you Nager. Motomo, I'll get back to you."
       Jerry came down to the dockside. Tara Levyson was looking at the old Kongo sitting in her dock. "Tara?"
       She spun to face him. "Jerry."
       "I can guess why you are here. I haven't changed my mind."
       "Admiral Calista knows you can get around fast Jerry. You were the first Captain. That's important. It is only three more days."
       "I have to give Admiral Calista the gold star for persistence Tara. But the answer is still no."
       "Doesn't she mean something to you?"
       "Yes, the Constellation and her crew meant a great deal to me. But I am done with lies. That includes the pleasant lies we tell each other in eulogies. I'll tell the truth Tara, and that is the last thing those people want to hear."
       "You're going to be stubborn about this."
       "Yes. I'm a cranky old man. I have a right to be a cranky old man. You can tell that to Admiral Calista, and I'll even give you a chit to the main transmitter here on Builder Station to do it. If she wants me there, I'll say cranky old man things. I'll tell the unvarnished truth.
       Levyson looked hurt. "I remember you as a kinder and gentler man Jerry."
       "I want to remember Constellation as she was. Bright paint and bright faces. Not a twisted wreck and a row of torpedo casings."
       "Is bitterness all that remains? You let yourself be bullied out of the Fleet."
       "It was time to go. Time to leave Starfleet to younger people. Time to ditch the politics."
       "You did a lot of good."
       "Yes, but I was ossifying behind a desk, not doing good. I gave Fleet half a century Tara. That was enough."
       "You can't give the crew of Constellation five more minutes?"
       Jerry tapped his chest. "They will live in my heart always. What I don't have time for is the pre-digested, cozy crap of a fleet funeral."
       "We need the closure. I don't know what you need any more."
       "Fewer trips to the cemetery? I've worn a path back and forth."
       "Is that all it is?"
       "I told you. I don't lie anymore. You go tell Admiral Calista, I'll say what it pleases me to say, and that will be the unvarnished truth as I understand it. If the political risk of that is too great, she will be happier without me."
       "I'll be back."
       "You know where to find me."
       Captain Levyson turned on her heel and walked away. Jerry watched her go. He took the communicator out of his pocket and flipped it open.
       "Builder Station Communications."
       "Patch me through to Desiderata please."
       "David Combe, Desiderata dockside."
       "David, Jerry here. Bring Desiderata to six hours to move."
       "Yes Sir, six hours to move confirmed."

       Half a dozen Ane held a circle open outside Starfleet's Memorial Hall. With a dull 'whump' Jerry and Aleilan put in a sudden appearance. Jerry winced and shook his head. After some face rubbing and scritches the lot formed up behind Jerry and went inside.
       Admiral Calista looked at Jerry LaSaille in his buff-black suit, last she had seen him his hair was solid white. Now it was blond. "Good God man, you don't look a day over thirty."
       "I stopped dying my hair."
       "You stopped dying you hair?"
       "Yes, I used to dye it silver."
       Calista held a beat. "You're determined to be a cranky old man."
       "I am here for the Constellation, you and the rest of Fleet command can be damned."
       "Do I have to go back over it again..."
       "You have your opinion Admiral, I have mine."
       "This isn't about politics."
       Jerry waved a hand in the direction of the omnipresent press and their floating holocams. "Then why all the reporters?"
       "It's a public event, I can't well keep them out."
       "You could have made it a private event, but didn't. Just as well, we shall have a wider audience for what I have to say."
       "Do you have your remarks prepared like I asked?"
       "No. I plan to speak extemporaneously."
       "The hell you are. You could at least warn me of the bomb you're about to drop."
       "Yes, we must control the public image of Starfleet."
       "We did what we had to do, for the good of the Fleet."
       "Admiral, it has been my hard won experience that there is very, very little we 'have to' do. The more it is insisted that it 'must' be done, the less important it really is."
       "So you're going to use this to get even with Starfleet in the person of me."
       Jerry smiled. "In a long life I have found that you can tell more about a person from what they expect others to do, than what they claim they will do themselves."
       "I came to speak for the Constellation, you and the rest of Fleet command can be damned."

       The ceremony proceeded in the expected direction. Jerry sat, and did not fidget. Admiral Calista, as expected, solemnly drove home honor and duty. He managed to not roll his eyes. At last the Chaplin announced. "Admiral Jerold Ryan LaSaille, retired. The first Captain of the USS Constellation."
       Jerry stood up and approached the podium. He spent a moment gathering his thoughts, looking at the sea of faces sprinkled heavily with uniforms. "I am one of the expected speakers. I rolled the Constellation out on her maiden voyage. I understand that none of the crew I sailed with was aboard the Constellation. In 40 years people move or, change assignments. In effect, I have been asked to give a eulogy for a ship. Hardware be damned. The Constellation is replaceable.
       "The lives of those that were aboard her are another matter. Those we can never replace. I don't have individual words of comfort, I did not know your loved ones. All I can truly say is that I was working Starfleet. I have been there, and I do understand.
       "We do not yet know what destroyed the Constellation. It will be up to Starfleet to bring closure as to the how. For the sake of everyone, may the closure be swift. I can however offer you the reason why.
       "Because we dare. Because we dare to challenge the unknown, because we dare to reach beyond our ability to grasp. Because we dare to find those things we do not know.
       "Once Sophant-kind crawled over, and died, exploring each on his own world. Now we reach out beyond those worlds, and we can expect that the same nature that smacked us down for mistakes in the wilderness on our respective worlds, will continue to lesson us in the wilderness of space.
       "This will not stop us. It is in our very nature to do exactly this, to reach out, to challenge, to win. It is also possible to lose. That is why we are here today.
       "I'm not staying for the wake. That is the place for those of you who knew and loved the people we have lost. So I need to say now, what I have to say.
       "Had they known, they would not have taken that last trip. I will not picture them to you willingly driving their ship to certain destruction, for no clear and present reason. Sacrifice willingly made is noble, but that wasn't the case this time. There was no one to save. There was no one to protect. They went out to bite a piece off the unknown, and it bit back.
       "Instead of wrapping ourselves in honor, duty and the 'noble cause', let us consider that they went out doing what they each most wanted to do. No one joins Starfleet, no one fights for space duty unless they want it. Can better be said of anyone than they spent their life doing what they wanted to do? I do not believe that better can be said. They were out there yanking back the covers. That is what they wanted to do. Let us remember them in that light. Thank you."
       Jerry stepped down from the podium and sat.

       After the ceremony a few people looked askance at LaSaille. One young woman shook his hand, several other people followed her example. Others acted like he wasn't there. Admiral Calista approached all smiles.
       "Not half of what I expected from you."
       "Nothing you deserved, but I was speaking to the survivors, not you, or Fleet."
       "Why must you be so disagreeable?"
       "I'm not in the company of agreeable people. I have come to lump admirals along with priests and politicians as disagreeable people."
       "My the bile has built up."
       "I suppose I should say something to the effect that 'in the day' Starfleet was about exploring and protecting, not politics. However, I would be wrong. Starfleet, has always been, and will be, about exploring and protecting. Starfleet command on the other hand has always been about politics."
       "And what would you know about that."
       "I shared a ship with Admiral Richard Barnard once. You have little to do but talk to your shipmates on such journeys. I learned a great deal about Fleet before, during, and after the Romulan War. I learned a lot about command and politics. When I found myself in the rarefied air and among the sensitive hides of Fleet command, I took Richard's lessons to heart."
       "You seem to have let them all go at once."
       "After Cartwright, Cendara, and then was easy. It stopped being fun."
       "Is that all a career in Starfleet meant to you, having fun?"
       Jerry smiled. "Calista, outside of food and shelter, I can't think of anything more important than having fun, including sex." LaSaille turned away from her to join the small knot of Ane waiting for him.
       Admiral Calisita stopped a beat then followed him. "Wait a minute. How could you have shared a ship with Barnard? He died in 2207."
       Jerry whirled around nearly in her face and locked eyes. "I frankly do not owe you the time of day Admiral, never mind the details of my life." He resumed his previous action.
       Admiral Calisita tugged at his sleeve. "Just a minute Mister."
       He came around brushing her off onto the floor. "Don't touch me again."
       She pulled the shreds of her dignity together. "I asked you a question, I expect an answer."
       Jerry draped an arm over Aleilan's neck. "You seem to forget, Admiral. I am no longer part of the chain of command. As a civilian my official answer is, go to Hell."
       **Where too?** Asked Aleilan privately.
       **Bellicolone. I want to check in.**
       The Ane, and Jerry, vanished in a rush of air.
       A small knot of people stood gaping at the place were the Ane had just vanished. Admiral Gent offered Admiral Calista a hand up. He looked past the place where LaSaille and his friends had been.
       "Consider yourself lucky Sir."
       Calista shot him a sharp look. "Lucky?"
       "Remember the incident that got that old man out of Starfleet."
       She harumped as she tugged her uniform back into trim. "He might be a rude old coot, but I don't think he is up to casually shooting people. Where do you think he went? I should send security after him."
       "I wouldn't sir."
       "You violated his space first sir."
       She shot him another look, and was about to reply when several reporters shouldered their way to the pair of Admirals.
       "Admiral Calista, do you have any comment about the incident."
       Calista quickly put on her press face. "No, it would be inappropriate to take away from the solemnity of the loss of the Constellation, we should concentrate on that gentleman. If you will excuse us we need to attend to the wake."

       The scene cleared to the front lawn. Jerry winced as his ears popped. **Thanks for the lift. Everyone take a rest.**
       Aleilan followed him up to the house. He saw Clarke working though the office windows, so he went straight into the farm office. Clarke looked up as he entered. "Dad, to what to I owe the pleasure?"
       "Persistent admirals."
       "What's the problem?"
       "Constellation got herself destroyed with all hands. I just got back from the memorial service, and an argument with Calista."
       "Damn...anyone we know?"
       "Still it's good to see you. You're staying the night?"
       "Yes. It's too much to ask the Ane to get me back to El Nanth on the same day. I'll just ask Miss Lily for some fresh sheets...."
       "Miss Lily has been dead for ten years."
       "Are you OK?"
       "Yea, I just forgot. Do you still have a wife named Alice?"
       "Then I'll ask her."
       "Seriously, are you good? It's not like you to forget things."
       Jerry sighed. "Clarke I have had these time slips for over a century. Familiar ground," he waved his arms at the walls, "does not improve the problem."
       "Can you get any help for it?"
       "Who do I ask? Aleilan helps a lot. Ane brains are built for vast amounts of memory. She long ago taught me the Ane methods, and does help. The Human brain is not built for so many years. I cope, and she catches me. Anyway. I'll tell your wife I'm here and catch up on spoiling your kids."
       "Not too much, I have to live with them once you're gone again."

       After dinner Jerry sat in the master bedroom. The big wingback chair faced the fireplace. Memory, what a fleeting thing was memory. He didn't have a box of childhood treasures to pull out of the closet. What few items he did have were those that went with him to Ann Arbor, and were now on Savanna. Precious little had been recoverable when the house was hit by the tornado. Then again, remembering wasn't the problem, it was remembering when.
       The door quietly clicked open, Aleilan in from her evening graze and run followed by Alice. Alice had a tall glass of sweet tea and a plate of cookies.
       Jerry shifted in his chair, the better to see. "Alice, this is unexpected."
       "Aleilan said you would want some."
       "She's always thinking of me. Thank you."
       Alice lingered after she put the dishes down. "Have you got a moment?"
       Jerry motioned to the other chair. "Sure, what's on your mind?"
       "Clarke is worried about you."
       "Clarke, worried about me? That's a change. It has usually been the other way around."
       "He told me about Miss Lily."
       Jerry sighed. "You get use to people being there. Sometimes it isn't clear what the here and now is."
       "Are you growing forgetful? There are treatments for that."
       "No, I don't forget things, I forget when, Alice. I sometimes find myself looking for a book I put down last night, fifty years ago. Thinking of looking up someone that is a century dead. In the last twenty or so years it has been getting serious."
       "What can you do?"
       "I don't know. The Ane methods have worked for me, up till now. I might need deeper training, or something else. What something else might be I don't know. That is the problem."
       "Just don't go without Papa."
       "I don't plan to Alice, and no, I won't forget."

       Late the next day back in his Savanna home Jerry watched the approach of the terminator thunderstorms from the eastern deck of his house. **I'm slipping.**
       **Yes.** Aleilan nuzzled the back of his neck.
       **I need to find someone like myself, I need answers on how to cope.**
       **There is the one.**
       **Flint. But how welcoming is he likely to be?**
       **You will not know until you ask.**
       **Then it's time to ask.** Jerry rose from his chair and went to the house terminal. **Desiderata**
       Gensilan, the ship's RI popped up on the screen. **Desiderata Gensilan here.**
       **Gensilan, move. We will be there in four hours, get a docking clearance for six.**
       **Yes Skipper.**
       Jerry snapped off the screen. **Coming Aleilan?**
       **I wouldn't miss it for the world.**
       **Well, I have a few things to pack.**

       Mr. Flint looked again at the sensors. Someone was in orbit. Another curious idiot no doubt that had to look around. He had ways of handling idiots, and to date they had never failed to work.
       The sharp rap of a hand on his door brought him up short. Few visitors ever knocked.
       "{A guest Mr. Flint.]" intoned his robot butler.
       "Yes, so it seems. Will you get the door please."
       He chided himself again for treating the machine with such grace. However, he himself programed it to be graceful, and he could not but reply in kind. Meanwhile his guest was shown into the room.
       A man of medium height, sandy hair and blue eyes. He took in the entire room, Mr. Flint was sure of that. This one missed nothing.
       "Good day Mr. Flint, I am Jerold Ryan LaSaille."
       "You know my name. You have me at advantage sir. What have you come seeking?"
       "Myself? No wishes for immortality, desire for power, none of things for which men typically seek me out?"
       "No. I seek your wisdom."
       "Wisdom? Which wisdom?"
       "I was born in 1948, in 1968 I was a over-confidant kid in Vietnam. I was hit by over 40 machine gun bullets. I did not die. I was in Africa in '92. I fought, and was wounded repeatedly, I did not die. I can repeat much the same litany for the last three hundred years. It is that wisdom I seek."
       Flint set his glass down heavily on the table before him. "For four thousand years, I have never met another like myself. How did you find me?"
       "I recently retired from Starfleet. As an admiral at Starfleet Command I read logs to pass the time."
       "Ah, yes. The Enterprise."
       "You might see where I would want to talk with a man four thousand years old. A man like myself, from all I could see."
       "Indeed I can. Please, be seated."
       "I apologize for the abrupt entry. However, you do not have an active subspace set. Acquiring an invitation was not possible."
       "That is deliberate. I do not encourage guests."
       "I suppose my first question would be; why not?"
       "The simple answer would be that I am tired of my fellow man. Weary of his chattering and noise."
       "But the simple answer is not the right one."
       Flint cocked an eyebrow. "Preceptive of you. No, I don't have a simple answer. That is the answer I gave myself on leaving Earth however. Have you never decided to be a hermit?"
       "So I ask you, why?"
       "Someone was making my life difficult. I have no assurance that this 'immortality' is indeed immortality, and I don't wish to test my case to destruction. Colonel Green wanted me dead. I didn't want me dead. I was also weary of war, of struggle, and people, at least the primate kind. The world was too small to hide in so I retreated into space."
       "The Savanna."
       "As ships in the night."
       "No doubt since my birth we have crossed paths repeatedly, and never knew what passed us."
       "I have to admit I thought ill of you when the Savanna was taken."
       "I was thanking you are the same time, but not by the name of Flint. Why did you fund the warp drive project? The reasons for funding my project were strictly selfish. I wanted out."
       "As did I. Three thousand plus years on Earth and I was shown a way off? Something new to see, new kinds of people to meet? Yes, I wanted that as well."
       "I missed out on the first waves of exploration. What was it like?"
       "Exciting. Delirious. I would have to say that the time of the first explorations was the best of my life. There were things that marred it. The Qzin for example. But for the most part, it was positive."
       "Why did you stop?"
       "I grew tired, and lonely."
       "Amid people?"
       "Have you never grown lonely Mr. LaSaille?"
       "No, I can't say I have, but then again, I have certain advantages. I have had a mental link since the mid 1970s. It is hard to be alone when you have constant company. How is one alone among people?"
       "How to explain? I have no contemporaries. I have no one, not even another person such as yourself with which to share my life that can understand. Can you show me another four thousand year old human?"
       "No, not a chance."
       "That is how I am lonely. How do I relate to anyone on my terms? I can pretend, I can relate on their terms but always in a pretense, always with a mask of falsehood."
       "A mask of falsehood. I am a tenth your age and I have to play that game already. Life; the Masquerade."
       "You start to understand."
       "But I have a relief, people that know, people that I can relate to."
       "Then you are more fortunate than I. The lack has not prevented the wanting. I am no less human in my needs than any other man. But, I grew tired of the lying, and tired of the grief."
       "Can we not lie?"
       "Can we? Can we stand before the multitudes and say, I will live forever and you will not? I tired, oh I tried a dozen times. Always the same. Those that would worship, those that would envy, those that hate. Can we tell the truth? Answer your own question."
       "lying has kept us apart for three hundred years. What benefit might we have rendered each other by simply knowing that the other existed?"
       "Impossible to tell. Would being hounded to the ends of the Earth have helped either of us?"
       "Hounded, no, I know what being hounded is like. What if there are more?"
       "You raise that possibility."
       "Could they benefit, could we still?"
       "And if they are people even more bitter than I? Long life does not assure charitable feelings toward one's fellow men."
       "No, I suppose that is true. I have had a lack of charitable feelings towards my fellow man more than once."
       "We may not want to know them, if they exist."
       "And we may. How can we know until we know?"
       "I see the Starfleet think has gotten under your skin."
       "Yes, it does that. I find I like thinking in a positive way. It starts the day better than negative thinking."
       "And if you're wrong?"
       "At least the day started on a positive note. I have stop lying."
       Flint stopped, he looked long and hard at Jerry LaSaille. "What do you hope to accomplish by this?"
       "Peace of mind."
       "Do you believe they will leave you alone?"
       "I don't know, and never will until I try. I haven't made any announcement, nor do I intend to inform the entire galaxy. But I don't lie anymore."
       "Have you ever told the truth about this matter?"
       "And the results?"
       "Mixed. The first time I don't think anyone quite believed me at first. I think I got out of Africa in time to prevent a cult from rising."
       "You! You where the 'Spirit that Walks'."
       "The very, in the living ectoplasm."
       "Ships in the night indeed. They still spoke of that fifty years later."
       "What about the second?"
       "I had to shoot someone."
       "Not very auspicious."
       "Other, later attempts have worked better. In Starfleet those I told, or who learned, treated me better. Man has changed."
       Flint laughed. "Has he? Has he really?"
       "You were there, I wasn't, I saw the before and the after without living through the transition. Man has changed."
       "In what way do you think?"
       "Starfleet think. It didn't grow in a vacuum, it was not born full blow into existence like Athena from the head of Zeus. It came from the people that made up Starfleet, Humans, and the other races of the Federation. Starfleet think is a result, not a cause."
       "So you are gambling on this change?"
       "In essence."
       "I was a gambling man a time or two. That is not a bet I would take."
       "That is why it is me, not you."
       "And if you lose?"
       "I retreat to Savanna and let people forget me."
       "So you have your fall back."
       "Yes. Being an optimist does not have to equate to being a fool."
       "The line is very thin."
       "However present. Your secret is safe Mr. Flint. Even if I bring a torch and pitchfork crowd down on my castle, I will not mention you."
       "Kind of you. Ah, I forget my duties as host. It has been a while. Can I get your some wine, home vintage, no Chateau Picard you understand, but I believe my skills are adequate."
       "If you please, a small glass. Drunk telepaths are no one's favorite people. Dr. McCoy seem to think your were rapidly declining in health. I wondered if I would get here in time."
       Flint poured the wine and freshened his own glass. "If I am in decline sir, it has been a gradual one. I have noticed little difference."
       "Then it would be gradual indeed, if the good doctor was reading his instruments correctly."
       "You think he was mistaken?"
       "I think he had too little data."
       "That would be a reasonable assumption as he did little but scan me once."
       "I know something about the medical profession, and I would assume you do as well. Making a prognosis on a single reading is tricky work. Doing so on an unknown is nearly impossible. I have another theory."
       "I think McCoy lied."
       "Lied to protect his friends?"
       "Yes, and lied to protect you. If I have learned anything of Leonard McCoy from others and from personal experience, he is a man that lives the Hippocratic Oath."
       "Is his only concern for others?"
       "I have little doubt he has concerns for himself as well, but given the choice between himself, and another, he would not choose himself."
       "Such men are rare, and little cherished until it is too late."
       "Your voice speaks of sad experience."
       "Yes, many times."
       "I have another purpose to coming here other than the personal one."
       "Forthrightness will not be of necessity rewarded."
       "Do you know what an Ansisi is?"
       "No, I have not encountered the term."
       "Ansisi are humans that are part of the Ane All. I am one such."
       "I have heard of the Ane, but they were little known in society when I left."
       "Ane are a created species, created to learn everyone's story, and preserve it. You have stories. I would, if you are willing, preserve them."
       "Many of the tales I have will not agree with recorded history."
       "We do not judge, we simply remember."
       "I will consider your offer. However, I imagine you have other, more personal things you would ask."
       "Yes, I do."
       "Then why not ask them?"
       "May I take a measure of the man before I ask?"
       "When you are ready, ask your questions. You are hesitant for a man who has come so far for answers."
       "Yes, I am. Curiously so."
       "Yet you have come all this way."
       "When the answers are important, how far will we travel for the answers."
       "Many light years it seems."
       "Yes, and many more in search of questions to ask."
       "Starfleet think?"
       "No, something deeper, Human think. Not everyone has it. Andorians don't. Vulcans do. Humans have it in spades. We as a species live to ask questions and find answers. Will you ever come back?"
       Flint smiled. "I don't know. I can't say yes, but no is so final. There is that matter of relating I spoke of. Indeed the more the world changes the greater the problem. Do you ever feel like a dinosaur Mr. LaSaille?"
       Jerry looked darkly at the bottom of his glass. "Yes, yes I do. One's childhood is a prison, a time and place you cannot escape from. I cannot say my childhood was difficult or unhappy, but it was in the time and place it was in. That part of me is forever trapped in that past."
       "And you grew up in the mid twentieth century. A time of such promise and progress."
       "And a time of fear, and racism."
       "I grew up in a village with a dozen families. We worked mainly with stone, and had a few items of copper. Not many, it was much work to wrestle copper from the earth. Copper you could not eat. Racism? We feared the different. We cowered from the sky and earth. Our gods in general were an angry bunch."
       "Have gods ever stopped being angry? Always angry at the people the leaders say we must fear."
       "I still question your assertion that man has changed. You, I, the technology differers the scope differs. The people, the attitudes? They do not differ."
       "I don't see many angry gods anymore."
       "Man still has gods. At least the angry kind seem to have died away."
       "Yet when warp ships were new every other ship contained those fleeing so they could hate."
       "Was Earth becoming a bad place to hate in?"
       Flint stopped for a moment. "Yes, it was becoming a bad place to hate in."
       "Then I contend it has indeed changed."
       "I don't, but I cannot in a single example refute you."
       "No more than I could prove it."
       "So outside of the lack of angry gods, what is there to hail?"
       "The Federation itself."
       "Is that indeed laudable?"
       "Yes, I believe so. My friends also believe so."
       "The Ane?"
       "Yes. They have recorded two million years of the ebb and flow of Galactic society. The Federation of Planets is the first time they have joined that society. According to them, it is something new."
       "It is all that then?"
       "A multi-racial gathering of peers, not an empire or an imposed structure. If the Federation can hue the line and keep true to the course it has set we are indeed looking at a new kind of Galactic society."
       "Who send out heavily armed ships."
       "Not everyone agrees with us Mr. Flint, and sometimes they will not take 'thank you, no' as an answer."
       "So you fight back. That isn't very enlightened."
       "You're trying to bait me. You are no pacifist. Of course you fight back. To not fight back is to be a fool, and usually a dead one."
       "Yet your stance on peace?"
       "Nothing about coming in peace means you don't fight when attacked. I have done my share of the fighting, and the coming in peace. I prefer the latter."
       "Are you armed now?"
       "Silly question."
       "What with, if you don't mind my asking?"
       "My Father's colt 1911, and a phaser."
       "Did you feel your would need them Mr. LaSaille?"
       "No. I don't really need a jacket either, but it's something I tend to wear."
       "I find it interesting you carry the slug thrower when you have a phaser. I seem to recall that particular gun was quite heavy."
       "Three pounds loaded. Fancy weapons can be neutralized. Less fancy ones are less susceptible."
       "And in the ultimate case?"
       "I still have fists and a ceramic knife."
       "HA! Fists and a potsherd. Has anything really changed?"
       "In weapons and tactics? The more it changes the more familiar it gets. One real difference."
       "And that is?"
       "Stun settings. Phasers can stop you, and not kill. Personally, I like that."
       "Blast away and no one is really hurt."
       "Oh you feel it. Experiencing phaser stun is part of Starfleet training. I was reminded of the one and only hangover I ever had."
       "You've had a hangover? I never have, and I have deserved them more times than I can count."
       "Telepathic hangover. When I woke up from having my mental shades yanked off."
       Flint smirked. "I would feel for you, but I haven't a clue."
       "I'm not asking. But I have felt the effects of phaser stun. It's not fun, but it will not kill you."
       "I will keep that in mind and remain far from those that wish to stun me."
       "That would be a laudable goal. Why do you care how violent I am?"
       "You say we are prisoners of our childhoods. The 1950s were a frightening and difficult time. The Cold war, the bomb. How much of that do you still carry?"
       "I sometimes catch myself in an old and forgotten prejudice. I can thank Nam for getting me over those before they really hardened in. Skin color didn't matter. Your buddies were your buddies. Jim Crow died somewhere between the rice fields and Tet."
       "And the bomb?"
       "I don't fear the bomb any more. Stupid people with the bomb? That is a different matter. I have held in my hands more destructive power than that era possessed. I used it to save a world. It's not the power I fear, its those that have the power.
       "It grows late Jerry, might I call you Jerry?"
       "Have you a name other than Flint?"
       Flint thought for a long moment. "None that I can remember, or prefer."
       "Then let use dispense with that much formality."
       "May I offer you hospitality
       "Thank you, I accept."

       The floating robot left. Jerry looked around the room, it was luxurious by any standard. It was interesting that a hermit had a spare bedroom and Louis XIV at that. The room exhibited feminine touches as well. Strange... Well it wasn't his house to comment.
       **Yes Jerry.**
       **All is well?**
       **The ship is well, we are right where you left us. Do you want me to join you?**
       **No, let's not pull any fast ones here. If you come, it's through the front door. Flint is no fool, and not a man to be trifled with. I made the offer. It has not been accepted or rejected.**
       **A lack of rejection is a positive thing.**
       **Can you and Gensilan keep things locked down?**
       **I do believe we can manage.**
       **In the morning then.**

       Flint sat in his room looking at the monitor. Tight beam telepathy, not something that would be easy to break into. Nothing he could break into and avoid notice. The man was communicating with his ship no doubt. It was natural enough. He did claim to be a telepath. He could have used a communicator as easily, but didn't. He was then a telepath as he said.
       So the mysterious Ane were overhead. Flint looked at the ship on the orbital scanner. It was a big boxy beast without much in the way of grace. It looked to have the Enterprise on one side of the family, and a panamax on the other. Desiderata. Such a graceful name for a box. So far it was peaceful, he would be peaceful also.

       The morning broke dreary. Fog covered the valley under the castle windows. Flint was just setting down to breakfast when his guest appeared.
       "Jerry, I trust you slept well."
       "Yes. Breakfast looks inviting."
       "Please, help yourself."
       Jerry took a seat. "Do you mind if I have Aleilan down?"
       "Your Ane friend."
       "Please, invite your lady down. I must admit to some curiosity. I was looking your ship over last night. She is not much to look at."
       "The Euphrates class is a poster child for beauty is as beauty does. She is a lot more elegant where I see the most of it."
       "Where is that?"
       "The inside."
       "Ah, yes. We so seldom look at the ships we sail anymore."
       "Only truth. I was only on the outside of the Kongo once in the eleven years I commanded her. The Constellation likewise."
       "So it is now only beauty is as beauty does."
       "I thought the Kongo an elegant ship."
       "What was she?"
       "Is, a Constitution class, like the Enterprise."
       "Is? So old a vessel still in service?"
       "No, her service days are over. I bought the ship from Starfleet. Foolish, expensive, but I indulged my desires in the matter."
       The robot glided into the room. "[A Visitor Mr. Flint.]"
       "Yes, show her in please."
       "[As you wish Sir.]"
       Aleilan followed the machine into the dining room. She was decked out in her jewels, her coat freshly brushed.
       Jerry got up and gave her a quick hug. "Flint, my soul mate Aleilan."
       Flint having rose as she enter gave a short bow. "Lady, I am charmed."
       **Old fashion gentleman are hard to find these days. I am charmed to be sure.**
       Flint's eyebrows crawled up his face. "That feels fascinating."
       **I am willing to give you more of it in exchange for your stories.**
       "An interesting imperative to have. You seek the memories of the lives of others, just to have them."
       **It is something built into all of us. Why do humans seek to fly? Primates never had wings.**
       "A valid question. One I don't have a direct answer for. I must admit that I sought flight, more than once.*
       "The sketches of Leonardo." Mused Jerry.
       "And other things lost or not recorded. It was not always safe to be a thinker among men."
       "That can still be the case. The acceptance of new ideas ebbs and flows."
       Flint looked at his new guest. "How would your typify the current stat of idea acceptance?"
       **An all time high in the human experience as we know it Mr. Flint.**
       "What time frame are we looking at?"
       **From about sixteen thousand BC.**
       "With such a record you wish my feeble memories?"
       **It is a spotty record at best. There are only so many Ane, and the world is so much larger.**
       "For all my years, I have never encountered your kind, and you have been on Earth all this time?"
       **It has not always been safe to be different. We have gotten out as we could.**
       Flint nodded. "Yes, this is true as well. It has seldom been safe to be different or a thinker."
       Jerry continued. "Yet times have changed. You still find the occasional person on Earth that is threatened by the new or the different, but they are becoming rare, and those that do exist are usually laughed into silence."
       "I must ask if that isn't just and expression of man's intolerance? Except now he is intolerance of intolerance."
       Jerry raised an eyebrow. "That would be the cynical point of view. I work hard to avoid it. It still catches me from time to time."
       "When one has seen much stupidity, and the results of that, it is easy to be a cynic. Do you read your Bible Jerold?"
       "No much of late."
       "Yes, it doesn't take the modern world into account. You might recall Ecclesiastes?"
       "Again too much of late. 'The Preacher' was old cynic of the first order. His words have haunted me."
       "Indeed, he was at that."
       "Was he another you?"
       "No, I can safely say that I am not the writer of any part of the Catholic or Protestant canons. By the time those books were written I had given up on gods."
       "Why do you bring it up?"
       "Because even at such a young age of Human civilization, old cynics were common. Ever has it been the way."
       "So in ancient times old men sat around the fire and complained that things are not as they were, and youth has ruined the world?"
       "Yes, that is so." Flint poured another glass of wine. "You mentioned a reason for coming to me Jerry. One more than a wish to get my stories."
       "I have a problem, one that deepens as I get older. My memory is slipping. That keeping your humanity you mentioned. I'm finding it harder and harder."
       "You must choose carefully what you remember, and select also the things you will forget."
       "The Human mind has only so much capacity Jerold. We do not need to remember each and every pistachio we have eaten, only the fact that we like them, and what they taste like."
       "I have carefully preserved every memory I have."
       "Yes, that would be the Ane way as you have explained. To remember all. But you are not an Ane Jerold, as much as you might identify with them, your mind, your brain, is not Ane. To survive you must flush from your memory all that is truly trivial."
       "The decisions. What part of yourself do you discard?"
       "Again you are thinking in Ane terms. Yes, what we remember is part of us, but it is not all. I retain memories from my distant past. Those things that make me what I am. However I do not retain every memory. Even short lived humans do not have sharp recall of everything they have experienced."
       Jerry sat slumped in his chair. "What do I unremember?"
       "You and you yourself alone can decide that. However, I can attest that it is the path you must take if you will not be buried beneath the weight of your years."
       "I don't know."
       Flint gestured towards Aleilan. "Let her be your repository. If it all must be remembered, let the rememberer do it. Free your mind. You asked my advice and my method. There it is before you."
       Jerry levered himself into a straighter position. "You have done as I asked. I cannot ask more. I will consider the problem and, as painful as it feels, apply the solution."
       "I wish you all the success." Flint tuned to Aleilan. "You consider my life worth remembering?"
       **Yes, all lives are worth remembering.**
       "Even the cruel and evil?"
       **Cannot one learn as much from a bad example as a good one?**
       "Yes, it is so. I will give you my memories then. However, I do not necessarily wish my name attached to them."
       **If you do not wish to be known, you shall not be known.**
       "That is how I wish it. Know me by the separate lives I have led. It is for the best."
       **Then that is how it will be.**

       Jerry watched the planet recede into the distance. His hand sought the pulse in Aleilan's throat. **Can your do this, help me forget?**
       **It will not be easy, but his advice is sound. Our way is not the universal way. That is the Federation mantra, and we are part of the Federation for a reason.**
       **Then I can beat this.**
       **Yes, I will not lose you to madness.**
       **I cannot be mad because of you.**
       **We are together, as always.**
That Thou Art Mindfull --Garry Stahl, August 2005
       The quote at the top is Hebrews 2:6-8 KJV. This is the Bible I was raised with, and the one I will turn to. It also gave me a good grounding for Shakespeare. I have Jerry LaSaille, in his profile mentioned as the first Captain of the USS Constellation, Constellation class. The timing of this would be 2313.
       I was once asked if it was possible for Jerry to lose his humanity. This is my answer to that. In truth this story started as simply the conversation with Flint. I had no plot and no plot resolution. It wasn't until I wrote Eulogy and Departure than I realized it supplied the conflict I required, man against himself.


Comments or questtons on this file? Mail Here

Download A zipped Rich Text Format version of this story.

Return to -- Epiphany Trek: The Stories

The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

Copyright Garry Stahl: 2004-2005. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.

Site designed and maintained by the Owner
With the Amiga 4000 Computer and SuSE Linux: 100% Windows Free

The Computers that work for me