Before starting out for the day, Margaret looked at me with an interesting curiosity. “Do you believe in reincarnation?”
I thought about it once I concluded she was serious. “I have a problem with the idea mostly because there are nearly twenty billion humans alive at the same time. I know many live off world, but why would there be that many if each was a reincarnated soul?”
“What if not all humans reincarnate?”
“I don’t understand?”
“Suppose only say twenty-five or thirty percent reincarnate?”
“And the rest don’t because they don’t want to? Wouldn’t that contradict the philosophy?”
“If they had a choice, but what if they didn’t because they are members of a hive?”
That sounded harsh. “Can you explain?”
“Not sure I can, but I agree with what you said originally so maybe the vast majority cannot reincarnate? Maybe the people who never seek to learn as much as possible, accept challenges, create things, you know people who don’t want to expand their minds, but are happy with their daily mundane routines and live their life doing nothing else are the hive souls.”
“God what does that make them less than full human?”
“No more like uninterested in the endless possibilities life offers. Certainly no one could experience everything in a single lifetime.”
“So if most people are just satisfied with a mundane existence those souls do not reincarnate?”
She nodded sagely. “Yeah, something like that. I saw on the Internet several small children who apparently were born with the skills that normally take decades to learn. Like a four year old boy with the knowledge of how to lead an orchestra through a Beethoven symphony without making a single mistake. A little girl no more than six years old with could play the violin perfectly. They were many more and none would be normally possible unless these children reincarnated.”
I was looking dumbfounded, I suppose because I felt that way.
“What?” she asked.
What is a Beethoven? And what is the Internet?”
Her eyes widened with surprise. “I don’t understand? Don’t you have the internet for learning and communication?”
“We have implants.” I tapped the bump behind my right ear.
“But how could you not know who Beethoven is or was?”
“Simple really. The reason humanity condemns the first half of the twenty-first century is because so much history was destroyed intentionally, ancient buildings burned, archeological sites destroyed. That time was a period in history with examples of extreme cruelty. Some humans were erased as if they would then be forgotten like they never happened.
“And then the wars started, civil wars, ideological wars, tech wars, the creation of a warrior class to battle androids. By mid-century even the records of famous people from history was mostly gone.”
“But,” she started. “Beethoven? Classical music, the arts? Is that what you’re implying?”
I nodded. “I don’t know what classical music means.”
“When did this start?”
“Early 2020s, escalating gradually until by 2050. I learned through instruction that the only way we might know the amazing history that existed before then would be through time travel.”
“But we time traveled to get here didn’t we?”
“I nodded agreement. “And remember the farm house filled with historical weapons?”
“Oh my god, you think that’s what those in charge here are doing?”
“Traveling back into historical times and collecting everything they can find that was destroyed? Yes, I do.”
“But they can’t moved the structures, buildings, and monuments here too can they?”
I shrugged. “If they learn enough details about them perhaps they can recreate them here.”
After that we were, it seemed, both lost in thought. In my mind the entire conversation was puzzling, yet a relief. Thinking about the subject and discussing it with a person who lived then was a mental expansion that felt good to me.
We traveled for days through dense forest, open meadows, around ponds, lakes, and across three rivers. I began to believe that where we were on the ring world, no one else resided. After all the world was massive having a livable surface of a dozen or more earth size planets.
After thirty days living off what we foraged, or hunted successfully, Margaret stood on the roof of the truck as she’d done every morning to scan distant possibilities. However unlike every other day this time she nearly screamed, “I see buildings.”
I joined her and looked where she pointed and indeed she’d found a small city or large town. There were lights in visible windows, and smoke rose from chimneys. Besides feeling very apprehensive, I knew we must try to fit in. I did not want us in the wilderness while she was pregnant.
The first sign of trouble came when we were several miles from what I now knew was a village. Trees lined the roadway, but that was not all. Tied to several trunks were humans, and the trees had spiraled roots from the ground below into the air to wrap the trapped bodies. Then the large roots sprouted hundreds; maybe thousands of small roots leaving me to believe the trees were consuming those trapped there.
Margaret cried out the moment she saw the first. After the tenth, I stopped the trunk. Not far in the distance I saw a wooden tower, with an opened gate at its base, and a covered area above where armed sentries stood. Men moving into the gate carried torches. None looked like anything other then paupers wearing rags for clothing. Behind the tower, I saw once I’d focused the binoculars, there was a road made from roughly hewed stone. Tall weeds spotted the edges where no one had trampled them.
Farther inside the walled village bluish white lights lit the buildings and lifted into the smoke filled air like a glowing haze of despair and hate, and threat.
Not one person I saw who seemed to notice us, or the trunk, moved as if to welcome or repel our approach.
I had the headlights aimed at the tower, and because of that I spotted several horsemen with crude weapons deploying in our direction. Their speed increased the closer they got to the gate. Men and women attempting to get inside the walls of the village, ran aside, or were cast aside brutally as if their lives had little or no value.
When the front trio, were in the open the leader then raised a tube shaped weapon and fired it at us. Green and blue flames licked the air before them but did not reach us.
I shook my head feeling deeply disappointed and then pissed off. I reached down and powered up the front laser cannons. When the read light glowed green, I fired. Ten seconds later their assault disintegrated leaving a glowing pile of ashes.
Flipping the controls into reverse, I used the mirrors to guide me so I did not need to look away from the next possible assault. We passed the trees dissolving humans who were being punished for utterly unknown reasons. I decided whatever they’d done they did not deserve the severity of their obvious death penalty.
One far enough I did not need worry about repercussions damaging us, I used the lasers to cut down the offending trees. Unfortunately, the tree sap was combustible and several exploded, which triggered a chain reaction. Very quickly the forest began to burn. From with the village I heard bells and sirens as their lament cried out a warning.
People began running, like streams of humanity to escape the flames. I turned away when several caught fire dropping and rolling to free themselves of the agony.
By then I was able to turn the truck around and accelerated to flee the carnage. Overhead I saw more than heard something huge approaching and glanced up in time to witness a vessel so big it blotted out the sky. Then it passed up and from multiple sights beneath its hull, water sprayed over the burning forest. Gradually the flames died back until the enraged glow of ashes glinted across the ruined forest floor.