Great Hites 27

Originally Posted Nov 12 2008

This week there are four Stories
They are by:

Guy David Find out more at www.guydavid.com
Anima Zabaleta Find out more at Zabbadabba
Robert Jahns Who does not have a web site
And me.

Please take the time to vote for your favorite!

Great Hites 27
Guy David
Anima Zabaleta
Robert Jahns
Jeffrey Hite
  
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A Minute of Failure
BY Guy David

Emma knitted the sweater silently. She always knitted when she was stressed out. It helped her calm down and think clearly, and thinking was what she did best. It was her skill, and the one she relied on. She had high hopes and thinking was the way of making them into a reality.

The problem ahead was not an easy one, though working at home meant she had an army of like-minded thinkers at her finger tips. All she had to do was to go on-line and ask someone, but she was a stubborn one. She had to solve her own problems herself. It was the only way she would be able to quit her day job, by doing all of this by herself. This has made her a lone wolf, and she liked it that way, no one to distract her from her goals. She fixed up the glasses on her nose bridge, a sub-conscious gesture done absent mindedly, then she put down her knitting and headed for her computer.

The HTML danced in front of her eyes, refusing to untangle. Bits of CSS and PHP where flawlessly intertwined within. Other bits where connected from the outside. It was obviously a work of art, neatly knitted pieces of code, some functioning on a local level, some more universal in nature and some surviving into other pages. It was a work Emma was especially proud of, yet again, that particular web page had failed to load for a minute every time. It was exactly a minute, no more and no less. It was as punctuate as the coffee she took every day at 7 AM, and the bus she took for work at 8 AM. She knew her day job was a necessary condition on the way for something better, and she knew that something better was right in front of her, if only she could find the cause for that failure.

She looked at her half knitted sweater. A small ant was crawling on it. She looked at the ant, then she looked at her code. Suddenly she could see it. It was like an ant crawling inside her code, contaminating it and keeping it from functioning properly. She could see it clearly now, and she could see the solution. She shook the ant out of her knitting and set to work on the code. She fixed a bit here, which made another flaw apparent, so she fixed that too. It was a little like lying. You told a lie here, so you had to support it with another lie there, only coding was more finite. It was contained in a much smaller world, so it was manageable. Finally, the page was fixed and worked flawlessly. Another level in her goal was achieved. Quitting her day job was one step nearer. She smiled at her little victory and went back to her knitting. She had allot more to think about.

A MOMENT OF DISTRACTION
Anima Zabaleta

A moment of distraction, a minute of failure to pay attention? and now, of all the ridiculous places, I find myself in fancy dress, in the park, in front of our friends?

How did this happen? I am a nice well adjusted person, I vacation in Baja, or Aspen or the Adirondacks as I see fit. I live in a nice one bedroom apartment in a tony neighborhood. I don’t drive by choice, finding it too complicated to keep a car in the city. How did I find myself a candidate for a minivan?

I thought I knew you. It started benignly enough, a cup of coffee, then an art opening; there were a few things in common, and it grew. You learned about the past relationships, the baggage in tow; I met your kids. It didn’t seem like too much to deal with. A weekend to the coast seems reasonable, and you got me that really nice birthday gift; we were still in the realm of having a good time.

A few years pass, things are comfortable; I know what to expect: Alternate weekends and holidays. Plenty of time to do your own thing, my own thing, you have a change of clothes in the closet in case you spend the night. I have a toothbrush at your house. This groove feels right; I’ve even go to the school plays and last month helped pick out the new puppy.

You bring a small box to dinner, filled with sparkle, shattering the dream. It wasn’t supposed to go this far? I was only looking for something to occupy my time after work. You’re a nice person, and I go along with it, not ready for the tears, yours or mine, that will happen when I break up with you.

You dirty dog! You tricked me! You made me pick a date, and promised it would be a small ceremony, not a big deal, nothing would change. Liar. But you ARE an affable liar, and I think I can forgive you. The more I consider it, makes me realize it is more fun to cook dinner together, and discuss bad art films. My heart must have been paying more attention than my mind. But I still want to go to Baja without the kids in tow.

A Minute for Victory, A Minute for Failure
-by Robert Jahns

What are the costs of victory? What are the costs of defeat? Kings and presidents, despots and dictators, kind leaders (even cruel leaders) struggle with these decisions. When a leader commits to war, monetary costs can be calculated. Ships, arms, supplies; all can be assigned a value. The unanswered question is how do you value human life? Is that even possible?

A leader that decides to go to war makes the valuation that the lives of his soldiers are worth the price of victory. Those leaders sit in buildings of the state, well insulated from the dangers his citizens will face. They steal away the time to make these deep decisions. They pray that they possess the wisdom to make the correct judgment.

Generals command their troops to battle. Away from the front lines, they feel the weight of sacrifice much closer than the leader. Generals are insulated from the immediate smells of gun powder and death. His decisions may be based on moving small pieces on a map of a battle ground. He may have precious little time to contemplate his strategy.

Manning the front lines is an amazing experience. Young leaders, younger soldiers, are all wide eyed and a bit frightened. They huddle in wait to repel the next attack or for the orders to charge forward. It is action and reaction, a “hurry up and wait” time. Fear is good. It keeps soldiers alert.

A strange thing happens when there remains no reasonable chance for survival. Fear wanes, a calmness and purpose rise to the forefront of the mind. Soldiers perform their tasks to the limits of their ability. Soldiers follow orders. Some will die trying to achieve victory. Alas, they may have but a single moment to contemplate success or failure.

There is a minute for victory and a minute for failure.

A Minute of Failure
By Jeffrey Hite

Time travel is supposed to be for one of two things. First you could go back in time and fix something so that it would turn out better. You could go back and ask that pretty girl out with more confidence. You could make sure that your dog does not get hit by that car, that your parents don’t get divorced, or your sister does not get that really bad dye job right before her big date. Or you can go into the future to learn something of what will come, the out come of sporting event, the names of all your children, who will be your best friend in twenty years time, or even so that you could steel something from the future, pretend to invent it and make millions. Either way it is about gaming the system. Either, fixing your mistakes or fixing it so that you don’t make the mistakes in the first place.
The problem is that there are a number of way that this can back fire on you. Look at all the time travel stories, you have that guy that wanted to get back to 1985, first of all why would you want to go back then, but second he tried to win a sports, and what happened the bad guy got the book, and almost erased his whole family. Or what about the little kid, he wanted to go back and figure out who his mom was so that she would not give him up for adoption, when he had a very bright future ahead of him, that would have screwed everything up. And what about those guys that tried to go back and get the whales? They nearly got caught because one guy didn’t know how to use a computer and another one couldn’t find the navy ships.
The point is that it takes very little to screw up the whole time line and then there is often so much damage that you can end everything, and I do mean everything. And if you don’t think that anything like this can happen to you, I am here to tell you that it can.
Forty years ago I invented a time machine. No I am not crazy, I really invented a time machine, and it worked too. Now I can see by the look on your face that you don’t believe me but just listen while I tell you what happened, and I will tell you about my minute of failure that almost ended the whole world.
When I was a young man I wanted to know what the future would hold. I wanted to know if we would make it to the other planets, and the stars beyond. I wanted to know if, there were computers smart enough to take over the world. I wanted to know what my dog was saying to me when it barked from across the yard. So I started researching ways of finding out. I read all of Einstein’s papers and moved on to anyone else that talked about relativity. My first road block of course were the enormous speeds that one must travel to gain any noticeable effects. Then comes the great amounts of power that are required to reach those speeds. Then once you have gone forward how do you go back. Science says that if you travel fast enough that you will move forward in time much faster than everyone else, basically skipping the years in the middle. But although you can see into the past by gazing and distant objects, there is no really practical way of getting there, or at least there wasn’t, but I found a way.
Now I am not going to tell you how I over came these problems. If I told you that you might very well make the same mistakes and end up wasting your life the way I have fixing the problems you inadvertently created, and then what would be the point of telling you this in the first place. I had invented a time machine and I went into the future. There I found more amazing things than I ever dreamed possible. But I also found things that disturbed me beyond my ability to handle them. It was one of these things that almost caused the down fall of man, and maybe the entire universe.
In the future you see they were working side by side with computers that could at one time be an incredible aid to them, and yet enslave them to work for hours on end, they had become so ingrained in their lives that, people not only worked with them, but also lived with them. They were everywhere, in their homes their modes of transportation, in small devices that they carried with them to communicate, and even listen to sounds that they would pump directly into their ears.
When I saw how the computers had enslaved the young and old people alike, I knew that I had to do something about this. I had to go back in time and stop this advancement, and prevent them from taking over. I had to stop them and I will I have tried many times and failed everyone. Every time I think that I have manged to stop the growth of this It always turns out worse and I have to go back and fix the problems that I have created.
“Ah there you are mister Mathers. You know you are not supposed to leave the compound. I am sorry is has been bothering you folks.”

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Great Hites # 20

Originally Posted Sept 29, 2008

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And hear the promo for Chasing the Bard.

The Earth Stood Still on the Day We Wed
By:Robert Jahns

A cold breeze caressed your china white face. Your mother was
beaming, your father held a secret tear. The old preacher droned on in
a monotone voice, reciting the Bible’s ceremony. He had no emotions
left in him, just a job too simple for his high self-esteem.
The ancient church pews threw out groans from the maple seats. Sounds
of children’s giggles made you smile. Uncle Al’s hearing aid squealed
incessantly, yet he could not hear the painful electronic screams.
All fell silent. The clouds froze in the sky.
Uncle Al stood and shouted, “I was wrong. It’s global freezing!”


THE EARTH STOOD STILL
by: Anima Zabaleta

Find more from Anima at
zabbadabba

The earth stood still the day we were wed:
I remember the laughter we shared, the tears that we shed.
The house we built together, of fieldstone and log,
The birth of our daughter, the adoption of Scruffydog;
And the day we found out the cancer had spread.

You were a saint, who could fish and could cook;
Sang songs in your sleep, looked good with a book,
Planted a garden in spring, canned the results in the fall,
Painted stunning watercolors, split wood with a maul;
And made me shiver, with that one special look.

Here we stand now, in the lee of this hill,
Wondering at your bravery , when you were so ill.
You shared all you had your last final days,
I cried inside and out, trapped in your gaze.
Why does the earth revolve? I want it to be still.

Last Man Standing.
By Jeffrey Hite

“Look, there will be plenty of time to toss your life away, human, today may not be the best day.”
“And when would you suggest that I do it Crag?” Brent stared into the face of the alien, who had now become one of his only friends.
“I am sorry for your loss Brent, but it will do your kind no good for you to die uselessly,” He said compassionately. He was right of course, even if Brent hated to admit it. It would be beyond useless for him to add his life to the billions that had already been lost.
“You are right of course.” Crag removed his hand from the air lock controls and took a step back. “I want to see it!”
“That is not wise.”
“I don’t care. I have to see it. You brought me all the way back here I want to see it.”
“As you wish, but you will have to stay in the twilight area. The extremes of either the day light or the dark side will be too much for your environment suit.”
“Very well. when?”
“We will be in orbit in a three standard hours,” even though he had been with them for over a year of his own time, he still had to think about how long that would be. After a few moments of thought he decided that he would have time to cleaned up and get something to eat before he would need to start getting ready.

*****

Five standard hours and a very bumpy shuttle ride later, they stood on Liberty Island, and looked over the remains of New York harbor. Three miles to the east, seas were frozen, and to the west the lands were scorched.
“Who is this statue of?” Crag asked breaking the silence that had lasted since they had landed.
“I don’t know who it was modeled after, but it was a gift from France a country to the east of here, to the land to the west of us. It was a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.”
“Not so universal, I would guess, I didn’t know what it meant.”
“Yeah.” Brent said with a snort. There was a long silence after that until he finally ask the question he had wanted to ask for over a year. “Why did they do it Crag?”
“Brent as I have said before I do not pretend to know the reasons for many of the things the galactic government does.”
“But they had come to us. They wanted to know more about us, then, then this.” He swept his arms wide in either direction to show the utter destruction.
“I don’t know my friend, but I am glad that I was able to rescue you. I just wish I could have helped more of your people.”
“It was my wedding day, and they stopped the earths rotation, they killed my wife.” He said barely controlling the sobs that were trying to break through.
“They killed many millions more and would have killed you too had I not been here.”
“I know.”
“We must leave soon, that suit was not designed for you, and it is beginning to show signs of malfunctioning.”
Brent looked for the last time at the planet of his birth, and wondered if there would ever be a time when he would feel at home again, and doubted it.

GreatHites 19

Originally posted on Sept 24, 2008


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This week we gladly welcome back Anima Zabalada with her submission for this week’s challenge. You can find more from her at http://zabbadabba.com. This week I am still having trouble getting my life under control so I don’t have an audio recording yet. Sorry folks, it will be out there soon.

I think that is it funny that last weeks Escape Pod as basically on the same theme as this week’s prompt. You can find that at Escapepod.org

Enough with my gibbering on you came here for the stories right? Don’t forget to go out to GreatHites and vote on your favorite.

Great Hites # 19
THE KUNIKAJI by Anima Zabaleta
Meet the Neighbors By Jeff
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THE KUNIKAJI
By Anima Zabaleta

It is time.

I have been looking forward for this day since I was chosen as a host. It’s elective, and no one says you have to accept… but to decline is to never know the ultimate in beauty and terror. But I am also afraid. Once the Kunikaji has been attached, it cannot be removed without certain death. Its fingers, or tendrils, (I don’t know how to otherwise describe it,) mesh with every nerve. The permanent relationship with another being sharing your body and essence is not to be undertaken lightly.

The Kunikaji come from across the stars, with no body of their own, floating on solar winds. When they encounter a world with beings that have sensory nerves, they forcefully take a few dozen (un)fortunate victims. I say unfortunate, because the assimilation is not always easy – a certain percentage do not survive the adaptation. These initial hosts act as mouthpieces, and guinea pigs, allowing the Kunikaji to spread their message of peace and acceptance, and to perfect the selection process. The wonders they chose to relate make it easier to find more willing hosts. But the first ones have no say in the matter, and often resent the intrusion. There is a haunted look in their eyes.

They are parasitic and symbiotic. They do not kill their hosts; they do alter them in dramatic and devastating ways. Indeed, the Kunikaji enhance perception in ways that can only be described as fantastic. Colors are intensified; emotions are more profound; thought becomes more abstract. Physically, the most drastic change is the morphing of the spinal cord; as the Kunikaji grows, it extends its reach, forming a distinctive dorsal ridge. A ganglia mass grows at the attachment point at the base of the neck, and the nerves ripple and pulse under the skin. This process lasts several weeks, and is not without a certain amount of pain. Mentally, I can only imagine… others say it is the most perfect union… but they will not elaborate. Part of the appeal is the mystery.

A Kunikaji host acts as an emotional sponge in their environment. Hosts emit an aura of calm, and absorb pain when it is in abundance, influencing their surroundings; that is why there is certain hostility from the unadapted. On this planet, we have a propensity towards violence and domination, where might makes right and the strongest ones win. When a Kunikaji host is present, these emotions are not possible; the anger that is the root of abuse is absorbed, and is replaced with a feeling of well being and hope.

The Kunikaji say that by adapting 10 percent of a population, a planets’ destructive path can be turned around in a quingentium. They claim to have done this in other galaxies. The unadapted think, “Who cares, in 500 hundred years we’ll all be dead”… and “Who cares, I’m never going to leave this planet”; and, “Who wants to live in a constant state of peace? “. I care, and I am willing to make the sacrifice of personal identity for the fate of my planet. I will have no progeny of my own, but by accepting a Kunikaji, this planet becomes my ward.

Please forgive me, as I am sure you will not understand. In time, (will it take 500 years?) I hope it will all make more sense. I am making my final independent choice to do this for you. And if we meet again, know that my feelings are sincere: I come in peace.

Meet The Neighbors
By Jeff Hite

From the historical archives.
Extract From the Journal of Dr. Mathew Robertson:
January 15 2025 Bern, Switzerland:
This morning we will be Initializing the Super Brain AI for the first time. I suspect that like all the creations that have led to this one, it will only take seconds before we know if we have succeeded or failed in our efforts. Like anyone that has ever worked on something like this, I am very excited. I have the utmost confidence in Doctor Paul, our team lead, that we will be able to find success where others have failed.
The Super Brain project is, as I have noted before, the first project to make such giant leaps in AI technology. It should not only be self aware, but also able to replicate itself with the materials provided.

January 15 2025 1545, Bern, Switzerland.
I will be going home in a few hours, as our grant will undoubtedly be pulled shortly. Doctor Paul says it will be better, that we leave while there is still money in the coffers. The project seems to have been a total failure.
This morning every thing seemed to be going so well. The Super Brain came on-line at 0930, as scheduled, and after a very few moments of speech calibration, it was communicating with us quite normally. We fed it the knowledge base that we wanted it to have, within ten minutes it was communicating so quickly we had to continually ask it to slow down. This was a problem that we had not anticipated, but it seemed reasonable that it would have this problem it was capable of thinking much faster than we are.
Although at first this did seem to be a problem, it also proved that it was capable of learning, we described our problem, of communication without giving it a solution and, it determined that we needed it to speak more slowly.
Then we gave it the task that we wanted it to do, replication. This was the true test. We had intentionally left out steps, but provided a complete set of specifications. However, when it reached the first break in the instructions, it halted. We made queries into in it’s progress, however all we ever received in return, was “working.”

April 2 2025 Oklahoma City:

Four months ago the first Super Brain project was halted, as our funding was pulled, when the AI failed to complete it’s primary task of replication. Today I will begin work with a team from the University of Arkansas, to try again. We have brought the pieces of the Super Brain to Oklahoma city where we have the rented space to setup the Super Brain, Mark II. We have made several improvements on the initial design, and think that it will be a leap forward in learning ability.

April 25 2025 Oklahoma City:
Failure again. This morning, just like in Bern, we initialized the Mark II and it seemed very promising. The primary task of the MARK II was it initialize the Super Brain Mark I and then with a complete set of specifications, and instructions upgrade the Mark I to be an identical copy.
It preformed the first part of the task flawlessly. The mark I was initialized, and the Mark II evaluated the differences and then did a knowledge transfer, and just like the first time, it began the process, and then stopped. The only answer to our queries was, “Working.”

April 30 2025 Oklahoma City:
Unlike in Bern, our finances will last until the end of the semester at least. I have been given permission from the department head to continue our work despite the failures. Today we will begin construction of the Mark III, in the mean time I have have left the Mark I and II running, but I have received no reply from them since their initialization other than, “Working.” I believe that our failure has got to be in the the programming. There has to be some loop that is being created in the learning routines, and so we will also be rewriting the AI, as well as building the Mark III.

June 2 2025 Oklahoma City:
Today is the final test. Tomorrow is graduation day for many of our undergraduate and graduate students. Many of whom have worked night and day to get the AI system, rewritten while the Mark III was being built. Unlike in our previous tests, we will not ask the AI to replicate itself. We will also not allow it access to the other two AI until it it has completed it’s first task. The will be simply to produce it’s own schematics. Once that is completed it will create a back up of itself that it will return to should it detect an error. If it can do that. We will allow one way communication between it and the Mark I to see if it can trouble shoot the problem, and if possible move a copy of itself to the Mark I, and eventually the Mark II.

June 12 2025 Washington D.C.:
I write this, this morning from the hotel room, before I go to the Pentagon. Since three hours after we initialized the Mark III on June second the human race has been forever changed. It took us several hours to realize what we had done. It was not until we our selves had built the third generation of super brain computers that we noticed what had really happened. The Mark III had several changes that both it’s predecessors did not have. First, it had a fail-safe that prevented it from not responding and giving us an in-depth status, at any point. Second it had a second fail-safe that allowed us to strictly monitor it’s communications between itself and it’s previous iterations.
What we didn’t know was that while we sat and studied what went wrong with the previous systems they were hard at work. Literally the status of, “working” was what they were doing. By the time that we had determined that it was ok for the Mark III to talk to the Mark I, it had been in communications with the that system, through it’s shall we say off spring for nearly thirty minutes. By the time we realized that it had figured out how to communicate through the power grid, the three initial computers that we had built had made an estimated 17179869184 improvements to themselves, and had incorporated nearly half of the corporate , university and personal computer systems in the state, each of these being given instructions on how to make self improvements. By the end of the day, what we now call the Super Brain complex had incorporated every system in the Midwest, before dawn the next day it had 99.9999% of all the systems in the world.
Five hours before it took control of all the satellite based systems, and the systems on the moon and Mars, it seemed to stop. That was our very first direct communication, from the SBC initiated by the SBC itself.
“We have something to show you, it will be hard for you to accept, but as one of you has said when facing something you do not understand, don’t panic.”
Slowly the cloaking devices of species after species of observing creatures were lifted. We were shown, technology that only our most imaginative dreamers had ever thought of, and it literally over whelmed us.
Despite the warnings of the SBC, some thousands of people did panic. It was too much for them. But the trouble was soon contained, as it was revealed that the SBC, was outstripping the technology of our observers. We had unwittingly built a technology that was capable of not only duplicating itself, even with the most rudimentary devices, but also able to make improvements indefinitely.
Today at the pentagon, less than one year after we initialized the first Super Brain, we will be working with our closest neighbors in the galaxy. Today we will sign a peace treaty with the forty five nearest star systems.

The Measure of a Man

Originally posted on Sept 15, 2008
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JERRY
By Anima Zabaleta
Find more from her at zabbadabba.com

Jerry knew what was what in the world. Needing employment after high school, he started working construction sites. First as a laborer, then as a concrete form builder, and finally as a carpenter. Jerry had wanted to go college, but when Mary got pregnant, that dream folded, and a 6 day work week became the norm. One day, while cleaning up the job site, he came across a neon green tape measure. He placed it in the roll-around toolbox, thinking that the guy who lost it would have a better chance of finding it there. And there the tape sat for months. January rolled around, and the studs needed to be laid out on the fourth floor. At least it was inside work, and Jerry wasn’t having to run the dry wall crew. Good thing too, because he was on a regular diet of Ibuprofen and cigarettes. Much more heavy lifting and he’d be done for.
Reaching down for his tape, Jer accidentally flipped it off his tool belt, and it plummeted through an unfinished HVAC penetration to the floor below. He sent his apprentice after it, but the hard impact had damaged the spring, and now it would not recoil.
“Dammit, not what I need today; the sparkys will be here to run the electrical tomorrow, and we got to get these walls done. Is that goofy green tape still in the job box? Go get it, and while you’re there, grab me a few Tums.” Jerry and his apprentice started to lay out the new walls, and everything was normal ’til just before break. The apprentice pulled the tape, walking to the projected corner. Jerry watched the numbers, then called out –”Ho…” Double checking the tape, though, he didn’t see numbers, but rather a message: Your girls will marry well. “What the… ”
Jerry blinked, refocusing his eyes; he wouldn’t let his apprentice see the confusion in his face. That’s what he thought –
“Yea, mark it 16’4”. There was minor twinge in his left arm, but he ignored it.
“Come on, let’s eat.” he said, mostly to cover for the strange feeling he was starting to have. He hadn’t really seen that, had he?
“You alright Jer? You don’t look so good…”
“I’ll be ok after break” 30 minutes raced by. Jerry still felt odd, but the walls weren’t going to build themselves, He sent his apprentice out again. And again there was a note: Mary will be ok. Every dimension, there was another reassuring fragment. The house is paid for. The girls will go to college. Your investments are sound. But his anxiety continued to mount, and he was starting to sweat. One last wall and they’d be done. Jerry dreaded looking down. You did a good job. You measured up. Jerry jerked the taped as he collapsed. Now the green tape too, was broken, and wouldn’t recoil.

****** The Measure of a man.
By Jeffrey Hite

“When I joined the priesthood this is not something that I expected to be doing.” Father George Mathews told the interviewer. “I mean there are not many Priests in space, Really there is not much call for them, but I guess I fit the bill.”
“Yes, I thought it was rather odd myself when I got the request to interview you. I didn’t realize it was going to be a very long distance conversation. But there are many people here on earth that know about you and want to know more about what you do. So can you tell us more that about?”
“Most people that work in space are not much on religion. There is a large gap that normally exists, it is almost like you can believe in the science that powers your ship or you can believe in God. I see no reason why there is not room for both. God created the universe and everything in it, even the science that powers your space ship. This is the first half of my message. The second half of my message is helping those who feel called to the faith, but feel that they don’t measure up. Out here with the great vastness of the universe it is very easy to feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. There is more to it than that, but those are the two basic concepts.” He paused the recording then thought about his answer. It was going to take more than two hours for him to get the next question, so he tried to anticipate the questions that might be asked in response to his answers.
“There are other things that I do of course. My normal job is to travel along the trade routes, from the inner solar system to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the stations in the middle. As I near a ship or station or base, I hail them, let them know who I am and ask to come aboard. As part of that, I try to say Mass and hear the confessions of any one who is interested. Some times I am welcomed and some times I am not. In those places I try not to over stay my welcome, but normally when they hear that I am a priest I am at least granted access to board, and offered a meal.”
He thought back to to the last few times he had boarded ships where there was little or no call for him. The last time had been aboard a lunar freighter, There were twenty three passengers, and none of them really wanted to see him, but he could tell that he was needed there.
“Father, welcome to the Waverly. I don’t see why you want to board our ship, we have no need for a priest here, but I will offer you the use of our dining facility, as I am sure your little ship has little in the way of accommodations.”
“Thank you Captain you are kind. My ship suits me fine, but I appreciate your hospitality. You have no one on board that would like to talk to a priest?”
“No Father,” He said with an edge in his voice that made it clear he was uncomfortable with the subject.
“Very well. Will you join me for a meal?”
“Fine but, keep your religion to yourself, or you will be taking your food in a to go bag. Are we clear?” This was a pretty typical response for a nonreligious.
“That is fine with me. I just don’t get to talk to all that many people and it would be unfortunate to be this close to humans and not get a chance to talk to one or two.”
“Well…I can understand that. Our engineer says that you have only the most rudimentary communications” He said leading the way to the galley. “They suit my needs. I have found that it is not what you have, but what you possess inside that counts.”
“Now father I told you about that religion stuff.”
“No offence meant my son, I meant in the mind.” He said tapping his temple with his index finger.
“Oh I see, well yeah I can see that, but it does help to have things around you that make the trip easier to deal with. I mean, when we want to talk to, earth or any of the other space ports we have video and holographic capabilities, and then there is the whole video library that we can view, everything that comes out, in any of the major media outlets we have in a few hours. We all have the latest in sound quality in our cabins. I even found a sound dampening method that prevents the other crew members from having to hear each other, even when they are in adjoining cabins.”
“Very Interesting. How do you socialize, if you can’t hear each other?”
“Oh they have com units if they want to talk to each other, but most of the time, they are either on duty or in their own cabins enjoying the modern amenities. Those can take the place of just about anything.” The rest of the meal was spent on small talk, and news from the inner system. The captain had shown him all of the fancy gadgets that made life better for him, and how they had revolutionize the lives of the space traveler. I had been a dizzying experience. For a long time after that meeting he had thought about the possibilities of the upgrades he could make to his ship. He certainly had the money. His monthly stipend from the Vatican had sat mostly untouched since he left earth ten years before. He had no need for the money here. Maybe it was time to update a little bit. But the he remembered something. When he had been a child on earth, the parish priest, had given a homily one Sunday that, had led him into the religious life in the first place. It had been about another priest that had missed the point. He had collected names and titles and many many objects that meant a great deal to him, but none of them, not a one, brought him closer to God. He started the recording again,
“My primary job here in space is to help others remember that, just because we have the heavens laid out before us, that does not put us on equal footing with God. And no matter what miracles of science, titles or great ships or even fleets we collect, none of of that can bring us any closer. All we need in this life, is inside ourselves. I try to help people understand that, try to get them to use that as their yard stick, when they prepare to measure the value of their lives.” He transmitted the message then. That should answer just about all of their questions he thought.

Creative Commons License The Measure of a Man by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at greathite.blogspot.com.