The General | Invulnerable pt 2 ch 6

In a flash, he was in control of my mind.


Part 2 - A Believer's Visitation

Chapter 6 - The General

We had walked out onto a balcony, a short walkway between two hallways, and which overlooked the great cavernous hall.

The balcony was a tiny thing, about two-thirds of the way up from the middle of the cavern to the top. The cavern was spherical, with islands of platforms moving about or fixed. The panels were everywhere. One, two, or more small panels in someone's grip as they hustled along some path from island to island. Door-sized panels perched in various places before various people doing incomprehensible interactive telepathic interfacing. Giant curved panels lined the walls, showing space, some places as if they were windows, other places obviously scenes from some other perspective.

A roar of trilling, humming buzz reached my ears. The worried sound of flocks of nervous people, a discordant symphony that swept from pole to pole, latitude to latitude, around the great globed room.

Some people leapt and glided, dove and flew, from island to island, in and out many doors and even porches like ours. Out of a nearby balcony, a muscular fellow leaped, spread his wings, and made like an arrow for the center island.

There, he reported to General Silverbreast, standing in the center of the central circular platform. The General's expression made me think the news didn't look good.

Surrounded as he was by screen panels and screen desks, I thought, it looks like he's in a giant bird's nest!

I realized, as we walked out on this vast scene, I had been so amazed, I reached my hand to my chest, to my heart. My hand slipped under the light guard's costume.

As I thought of this huge bird's nest image, a horrible cry rang out from many in the chamber, a collective scream.

I was hearing this terrible scream, and when I looked up from the sandbox, Puss had a Blue Jay in his mouth. The Blue Jay had been screaming but now it was limp and silent. I thought it was dead. The screaming just kept on in my head. Suddenly, Mom was there and swatted Puss with a broom. He let go of the Jay and the bird flew away, high into the trees.

Inside my robes, I touched my hidden screen device, just slightly brushed it, but enough to connect.

Here, in this great hall, it suddenly reconnected with the ship's web. Symbols and images on the screens around the room took on meaning. Communications buzzed about danger. Data flowed into my understanding.

At one and the same time, the vast fleet assembled by these reptilians, hidden, cloaked, masked by moons and technology, had become utterly visible to their mammalian foes; a fleet of utterly unanticipated enormity emerged from the planet below, flowing up like an impossibly huge geyser, expanding into the space where the lizards were parked, unprepared; and, unpredicted by anyone, like a third alien army, a mighty lash of expelled solar plasma was headed for them all. Us all.

Sweeping solar threat.

Two fleets poised for carnage, for specicide.

Down in the center was the General, furiously touching several screens large and small, turning this way and that in the center of the great control room's central bird's nest.

Silverbreast (click for larger)

All this happened almost at once as I brushed against my hidden screen, and I was seen.

All my thoughts of the solar protrusion, imminent war, and the Great Bird in the center nest, along with all my self-control, vanished. My vision seemed to telescope, as much of the scene receded to my peripheral vision and — eagle-eyed I laughed inside — I zoomed in, in, in on the General. He turned his gaze up toward me, and with equally eagle-eyed vision, he looked back at me, into my whole mind.

In a flash, just after walking onto the balcony, just after touching my hidden screen, unknown to my companions in escape, General Silverbreast was in control of my mind.

Inside my mind, none of the noise of the hall, no sound or sight, only the presence of myself. And the General. And a faint, reverberating echo of the image of the General as a Giant Condor in its nest.

From the General, an explosion of emotion, furiously powerful, incomparable to anything I can think of. Like pride, but sorrowful. A deep longing and a horrible anger. Pity. Loss. Awful duty.

In my mind, Silverbreast cleared all else away, I was carried high into the sky. A roar of disdain for me and all my kind, like a wall of flame, slammed me back down. I felt like a worm ground beneath a heel.

General Silverbreast took my half-thought image of a ratty, ill-made bird's nest, took my thought like he had it in his own taloned claw, turning it this way and that. I could not stop thinking of it in front of him!

Then, in my mind, he looked deeply into me, and — ow! — he pulled from my mind, like pulling a tooth, a memory of a photograph in a magazine of a Bald Eagle's nest, high on a crag, with a magnificent adult and two chicks, old enough almost to be pushed out of the nest.

At that, the disdain receded a little. I felt sympathy for me, pity for me, and a clutching sadness.

Suddenly, I was soaring, high above the clouds. The sun warmed my back and the wind was water for me to swim through. I shrugged my wings and lifted up higher, higher, to where the air was thin and the sun didn't warm so much. More of a strain to get more altitude.

I turned my gaze to the ground. Below the thinning clouds, I saw their world. Clearly, I saw civilization overlaid on a vast landscape. Mountains and forests, rivers and lakes, and near the horizon an ocean, all familiar, all utterly strange. No mountains on Earth look like those peaks. And no human city looks like the wide-spread crystalline structures that were scattered near the mountaintops.

I folded my wings behind my back and fell, like a meteor, toward a mountaintop. The roar of air! The brush of wind against my eyes and breastfeathers! The incredible rush of gravity's acceleration!

The mountaintop city rushed up at me. Details I could see before more clearly than my normal vision but now I began to pick out individuals, what appeared to be vehicles gliding through the air, shimmering, gossamer ribbons connecting the cities and surrounding developments. Their buildings jutted out from the mountains like crystals had just formed that way. Tall towers had broad, open platforms without railings. And everywhere, everywhere, gardens and parks, lush green and purple foliage. Everywhere.

The up-rushing cityscape caused Paul's mind to break through with urgency and concern. "Time to pull the chute!" The thought froze in place as the gleaming, gardenic structures continued to become clearer, more detailed, rushing closer.

Down, past the mountain's top, then pull my wings into the roaring draft, veering toward the mountainside, thrusting out my wings, grabbing the air like a trapeze, gracefully navigating the currents off the mountain and updrafts out of the valleys; slowing, descending, feet forward now, toward one grand, thrusting platform, where my children rush forward, leap off the platform, and soar up to greet me. We touch talons as we descend.

My wife floats out the door onto the patio. We snuggle against each other, envelop our son and daughter in our hug. We look into their sweet faces, full of play and joy, freedom and reverence for life. She has fashioned a wreath of flowers to decorate her brow, and he has such affection in his young face as he watches her place the wreath on their mother's bowed head. My lovely mate rises, we smile into each other's eyes, and the children flit off to their games.

Together, we gaze upon our valley. So many very dear life-long friends live in the neighborhood. We've shared so many of life's joys and tragedies together, much of it right here in our home canyon. So many lives, interwoven.

We are taught, the weaving of family and society beyond is like our relatives, the birds, build their nests. The wisest ones select their materials carefully, weave them with wisdom, and line them for security, warmth, and comfort. They are light but strong, easy to defend, and protect the most important part of us, our homes, our families.

Beyond the valley, gleaming in the setting sun, the twin city-peaks, full of millions of families. Beyond, hundreds of larger and smaller communities, full of families. Even beyond, the worlds where standard progressive development has produced intelligent life almost exactly like ours, always spreading out into new colonized world. Billions and trillions and unknown more, of our precious families.

Five civilizations in four different solar systems, all similarly evolved as the winged bi-pedal intelligent, civilizing species. Four had long been aware of each other, joined in fact by a united government, spanning their native and colonized planets. The fifth civilization was still in transition to the point where contact would be considered prudent and worthwhile, but we have done our best to observe them, protect them from cosmic disaster, and self-destruction, hastening the day, which so many of us believe should come soon, when they will join the Great Pact. They have such a beautiful, delicate civilization, their own music and humor and worship. They're like our children.

With multiple worlds to study, we came to understand, progressive development naturally produces erect, bi-pedal, winged beings. The advantages of this type are not merely selected, although the process of selection is what makes each world so wonderfully unique. Our type is as inevitable as life itself, as the underlying chemistry and physics.

There may be some kind of unimagined other forms of life in the vastness of Creation, but where our laws of physics and chemistry and biology hold, where chemical life of our type appears, we are of one type. Our similarities are such that our scientists believe we could soon, in the laboratory, cross those of us from one of our worlds with those of us from another — as some have fallen into family-mindedness across planetary lines and beyond any current hope of having children of their own together.

As we seek for more intelligent beings on other worlds, as we reach new inhabited solar systems, we fully expect to find people likewise similar to us on innumerable worlds.

The urge to self-awareness, the pattern to grow as a world and to develop peaceful, loving families and societies, we attribute to the One from whom all proceed, the Source of life, being, family, and forevermoreness.

So powerful is this urge, within the One's Creation, that even when accident chokes off the development of the usual species type, when our kind cannot appear, for some catastrophic reason, self-aware creatures develop anyway, from inferior species. Life, and minded life, insists on struggling to become aware of the One.

Standing on the family porch of the mighty General, relaxed at home in the enfoldment of family, caressed by my mate, gazing upon my home valley, looking in my mind at all the cities of this world, all the cities of all the worlds of all our civilization and all the civilizations in the Great Pact, and the protected world, and worlds not yet discovered, all teeming with crystal cities and wide countrysides populated by trillions upon trillions of us. Our One galactic family, all developed the same by the Will of the One who began it all, all flying together, as we say.

Then everything is silent and black.

Infinitely faster than the plunge toward the mountains, I fly across empty space in an instant transported from the warmth of home, the laughter of my children, to another world.

Clouds parted thickly as we plunged toward the surface of this world. Here again were unfamiliar but recognizable features, oceans and rivers, mountains and prairies, an ice-capped pole, and sweeping deserts.

Here there were no crystal civilizations on the mountaintops. Here, cities lay low and dark, were gray and brown, clustered close around the waters into which they poured their raw filth.

Broad roads cut across landscapes and tunneled right through mountains. Huge, smoking factoryscapes smothered shorelines and blighted the fertile farmlands. Here and there, the smoking factories and clumps of brown and gray cities, gave way to rows of steel boxes, mostly identical as seen from above -- their homes.

Upon the land, they walked and drove. When they flew, it was inside horrible mockeries of bird flight, and as they reached out to space, they rode on fireworks.

I flew past where scars of recent wars smoldered. I flew across their self-made canyons and heard their machinery screaming and grinding and their people howling and raging. We did not get up close to anyone here as we did back at our beautiful home. But we have observed them. We know them by their ugly, vicious society and their ignorance of the laws of nature, fellowship, and Oneness.

On our world we have such creatures. There are no intelligent ones, and there never were any large ones. They developed late, after our ancestors. Most are vermin, and most of those have been exterminated on advanced worlds. The rest we keep in natural habitats, or raise for food, leather, fur, and other uses.

Some of the smarter ones we keep as pets, like the small, semi-hairless, semi-erect ones who prove so helpful and comforting to our children and elderly.

Four generations ago, when we discovered their world, we were shocked. Our scientists had never expected such a development. Our study of them from afar indicated that at some time in the ancient past of their world, something akin to a disease, or change in the food supply, must have wiped out the precursor species, and altered the course of normal progressive development which the One has set in place. The resultant dominant species was nothing like us. Ground-bound, bestial, selfish, and practically unteachable.

At first, in various secret ways, we reached out, tried to protect them as we would our own, but their bent for violence was abhorrent. Twice we sent teachers in disguise, to live among those horrible groundlings. Both were horribly tortured to death.

After that, a debate began, and new, deep rifts in our society developed because of this discovery. Some thought they were an abomination of nature and ought to be guarded against, and some said exterminated. Others sought to treat them as our own, shepherd them until they could appreciate the Great Pact. They pointed to various movements in their societies which now and then suggested real civilization could eventually take root among them. Most who studied how they lived and acted doubted they could ever become civilized.

One movement began to quit eating mammals or wearing their skins and using their furs, but every civilization has their kooks.

Our last attempt to reach out to them came when the pro-mammal faction was in power. We secretly sent ambassadors, undisguised, to the Masters of their many factions, political and religious.

The reception was not positive. A few on their world accepted us, but warned their people were not ready. Most reacted with shock and horror to the appearance and message of our people, and would not heed or accept them.

Most of our ambassadors never returned. Their signals were cut and we lost them.

After that, the beasts turned their eye toward space, toward us. After a while, they found us. We had unleashed them upon space, and they moved out from their world to nearby moons in a single generation.

The debate in our society rolled on. All attempts to reach out to them ended. The pro-mammal movements splintered. We got increasingly alarming reports of the beasts' progress in space travel, and weaponry, and the "anti-aliens" movement sweeping their world. We did nothing for too long.

We did not realize they had conquered hyperspace until we found the smoldering hole on the fifth civilization, the world where people like us were developing. Hundreds of thousands had been slaughtered; nearby giant cities were mostly undamaged. It was a blind teleportation, but across space, to hit the world at all, showed they could do it. They would not know yet they had succeeded. We could not give them another chance.

Which is when we discovered yet another world of mammalian sentients. Here, the normal course of biological progression had been disrupted by several relatively simultaneous attacks. An asteroid hit the planet during what should have continued to be the age-long eras of our giant ancestors, which precedes the coming of the line which leads to sentience. Our line was diminished, and the strains which might have led, should have led, to Onekind, failed, were extinguished.

Another type of creature arose instead, groundlings mostly, who went through their own cycle of giantism and then a line which, astonishingly, drops from the trees, stands almost erect, and develops self-awareness, after its own pattern, and a rudimentary, barbaric society.

When the news of this second mammalian civilization came right after the attack on our precious, protected world, our civilization across all our worlds seethed with feelings of fear and outrage unlike anything we'd felt before, spreading like a virulent disease, blotting out reason and joy.

"Is it true?" my wife asks. "Will you go?"

"I am to go and lead," I say.

She shudders against me.

"They are coming," I say. "We know of their plans. We may not be strong enough. They have always lived for battle, while we conquered our savagery in the infancy of our civilizations. We are not ready in spirit for the horrible deed ahead. I am to lead."

"Then, is there no hope?" she cries.

The savages, armed with weapons beyond our ken or match, pour forth in numbers incalculably beyond our grimmest predictions. The fleet with which we had hoped to destroy their worlds is trapped between our unreadiness, the onrushing enemy, and this unexpected cosmic hand throwing at us a wave of the sun itself, a sea of death half as wide as the solar system.

"One hope, one small hope I have of our success," I tell my wife.

The battle races toward us, but the flames will likely consume us first.

You were that tiny hope I had.

With that, in less than a blink of an eyelid, before I could form another thought or feel anything but what burned at that moment in the heart of General Silverbreast -- he thrust me out.

With a shock, like a slap, I was on the balcony again, overlooking the great hall. Only a moment had passed and my companions were completely oblivious of my experience.

With mere, fuzzy human vision I saw, far below me, Silverbreast turn from me and back to the war. He had seen me, seen us, knew what we were doing, but we were beneath his care.

There is in your world, he left in my mind, a story. A Chief General must lead his people into battle. This Chief General's pilot is the One, pretending, serving, dressed in a mortal form. On the eve of war, from the vantage of a mountaintop they behold the separate groundling armies facing each other across the table of war below.

Granted the eyes of the One, the General sees, both sides are his kin. All their souls are lovely, One-like.

Seeing through the Eye of the One, seeing with the Heart of the One, the General turns to the One, humbled, overwhelmed, and cries out, I cannot lead a war of my people against my people!

Then the One gave him an eye to the future. The battle was set. It had to take place; inevitable. Without their General, his side would lose. With their General, his side would win. The General may see the Oneness of souls, though the Eye of the One, but he must live his duty, serve his people, and not disgrace his name and purpose for family, for civilization.

Ike's hand brushed my shoulder, and he made a soft sound that could have been, "Hey."

They hustled me through a door, down halls, hiding around corners, but I was numb. The General's mind was so powerful. I am so small. Just a piece of flotsam....

I see a leaf with a twig stuck in it, floating down a clear trickling brook....

Doctor Bluewings and Ike and I entered what seemed a long dead-end hallway. They motioned that I should get into a low, small closet, where I had to lie down -- a bed! There was a soft hum. I felt drowsy. I touched my hidden screen. I was no longer connected.