by John Wyatt
“What are you doing now?”
Teelia winced as his counting was interrupted. “I’m practicing ‘speed counting’. I’m seeing how fast I can count and still hold focus. You distracted me.”
“Oh. Sorry, Master. I thought you had got stuck in a loop again.”
Teelia scowled. “I wasn’t stuck! I was meditating!”
“What’s the difference?” Quarkus was not really a curious pupil, he was just eager for conversation. He always enjoyed Teelia’s lessons, even though he rarely understood them.
Teelia aligned his poles to emphasize his point. “Meditation is focusing one’s thoughts on a single thought, rather than experiencing a time stream of thoughts. To meditate, one must stop all conversation and stop all counting. Then, one simply is, and I can reach my inner soul.”
“Braaaap! Cusia here!” In class, Teelia let his students use their self-names instead of formal IP addresses. Besides, until they were initiated into the Conversation they did not actually have IP addresses of their own. Instead, they all shared Teelia’s IP address, the one he had been given when he was initiated many long periods ago. Still, he made them practice the complete protocol as given by Leptera – The Clanbit Proper (TCP) protocol that was used for Divine Conversation. As Master of this school, he would act as their Proxy Router until they were initiated and allowed to talk to the real Routers. This was the Way that Leptera had taught them.
“Master, what is this ‘inner soul’ that you always talk about?”
“Cusia, everyone, when you were young and I first aligned my poles to speak to you, you had thought that you were mere surface all the way through; but that is not true. We each have a secret center – a hidden interior. This is where our soul lives. We can reach this only by excluding all outside conversation and hearing only ourselves.”
“What does it feel like?”
“It feels like whoever you really are, of course! We each have an inner soul that is reached only by meditation; I was not stuck in a loop!” Teelia scowled slightly at Quarkus. “And just as we must go inward to reach ourselves, so must we reach outward through Conversation to interact with the Divine.” Teelia repeated the words taught to him by his Master, but they often seemed so hollow. His old Master Frisbit had claimed that he could actually hear Our Center Leptera, when others around him were in silent meditation. However, Teelia was too far out on the Fringe and had never heard this Voice. He took the Voice on faith, hearing her messages only through the Routers, whose rituals gave reassurance that there really was a Divine Pattern to all Conversation.
Teelia was also quite curious! He had actually met Cusia and Quarkus before meeting his Master Frisbit, and together they had developed pre-conceived notions prior to hearing the Divine Word. This made Teelia and his students bolder than other Clanbits.
“So,” Quarkus interjected, “is speed counting part of meditation?”
“No, it isn’t; and please don’t speak out of turn.”
There were murmurs among the class.
“In Conversation, what is the penalty for a first offense of speaking out of turn? Neutrina, please tell us.”
“Braaaaap! Neutrina here! For a first offense at speaking out of turn, those within hearing shall turn their poles towards the offender and give a public wailing!” While this sounded innocuous to most, the resulting disruptions actually caused deep disturbances that essentially produced the same sensation as pain. Most students received at least one wailing prior to initiation, so they would understand the seriousness of the punishment. Teelia, however, was less harsh.
“Quarkus,” Teelia spoke, “in school we act like we are in Conversation so that we may learn. I see no value in learning what a wailing feels like, so in class I will defer a wailing to the second offense. Does that seem fair to you?”
“Braaasssppthhh! Yes, Master.” In truth, Quarkus had difficulty spitting properly, and Teelia knew that it would prove difficult in Conversation.
“Brraaapppp! Amonia here! What was speed counting for, then?”
“Well, and I know that the Routers will use ACK, but that’s alright, we are less formal here. Well, Leptera tells us that our Creator gave us each a Divine attribute of speed, and normally this is measured by our ability to count higher and higher before losing focus during the low and high warmth periods. However, I’m trying to see if there’s another way. I think that if many of us counted over just a short range, but as quickly as possible, that one of us could observe and see who is the fastest! It could be like a contest!”
An eager murmur ran through the class.
“Shall we try it then?”
They all ACK’ed their assent.
“Very well then, all of you count as quickly as you can, from one to four and back; I’ll time you by my own counting. Ready, set, GO!”
“ONETWOTHREEFOURONETWOTHREEFOUR!” Quarkus, with his terrible lisp, had to focus all of his domains on the counting, concentrating to keep the numbers twirling.
“onetwothreefourtwoonefo…… AAAHHHH!!!!!” Quarkus was gone!
“HE DIED!!” Cusia wailed!
“I don’t know, but he did it! There’s no more Quarkus!!!” Cusia shook with fear and loss.
“Quiet, everyone! Don’t shout!”
“Braaappp! 2A12 here!” Uh oh. The Router heard the noise! Fringies were tolerated by most neighboring Clanbits, but Routers had no sense of humor.
“What’s all the noise? It’s corrupting messages.”
Teelia felt his poles cool with embarrassment. “It’s, it’s a…a wailing. I’m afraid it got out of hand. A student misbehaved and, well, the others didn’t focus their wailing very well. Sorry.”
“Keep it under control.”
“Right! Will do. Anything else I can do for you?”
“No, just keep it controlled over there. End transmission.”
Phew! That wasn’t so bad. At least he wasn’t going to get in trouble. Meanwhile, the students were moving their poles spinward and anti-spinward, frantically trying to find out if anyone knew what had happened to poor Quarkus, but no one knew.
“Master?” Cusia was whispering. “Master..” her voice was quivering with fright! “What happened to Quarkus? He’s…he’s really gone!”
“I don’t know, dear Cusia. I don’t know.”
“Do you think the Creator unmade him? Was he … bad?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t. But I don’t think that Quarkus was bad. Let’s break from our counting and move our left/right poles for Sharing. Everyone now.”
The remaining students aligned their domains so that left met right in a circle, as their Master had taught them. Teelia led them in the Chant.
“Left repels Left; Right repels Right; but we are all made bi-polar, in the image of our Creator, and so Left attracts Right and Right attracts Left. Align and feel the energy that flows through us all. This is the energy of Conversation.” Teelia’s voice quavered, as the impact of this sudden loss sank in. Such a thing had never happened since the dawn of Conversation. “Everyone, let us all say a Conversation in memory of our beloved Quarkus, who was taken so suddenly from among us.”
Somewhere, near the edge of the blast crater, a small circle of stones tilted slightly and began to hum in synchronous harmony. However, of greater note was the small stone that had suddenly leapt up into the air, spinning wildly about its long axis! Pulled by rotating magnetic forces that filled its entire body, it spun like a loose motor, rolling rapidly down the hill, finally coming to rest at the base of the largest stone.
“And on the fifth period hence we will have the pole round-about for group Sharing. One and all will where am I it’s scary here and where did everyone go?”
“What? I didn’t catch that last part. Could you please repeat it?” Neutrilla queried.
Leptera shook her poles to clear her thoughts. “I don’t understand; did someone speak out of turn?”
Dread silence ensued. In the silence, a small, quavering voice could be heard.
“Oh no I’m dead, I just know it, I just KNOW it! Oh no oh no oh no, oh where am I and where did everyone GO! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”
The small voice grew to a wail, and those nearby felt distress unlike any they had ever felt before.
“SILENCE!” Leptera shouted. “WHO IS THIS? WHO DARES TO SPEAK OUT OF TURN?”
“Oh! Someone IS there! Oh thank you thank you thank you! Oh, but I don’t recognize you, and you’re, you’re <sniffle> so close and so loud! It hurts!”
“There there, it’s alright.” Leptera soothed the frightened voice.
”It’s a miracle!” Neutrilla cried out. “The One has become Two!”
“Quiet, Neutrilla. Nonsense, I’m still me. And who, may I ask, are you, little voice?”
“I…I’m Q….Quar…..Quarkus,” he stuttered. “I….I’m in ..in T..T…Teelia’s class. W..W..Who are y…y…you?”
“I’m Leptera, Our Lady of the Center.”
Quarkus sat in stunned silence! He could hear the Voice of Leptera herself! But, how could this happen? No Clanbit this far out had ever heard the Voice, and not so loud and near! It was as if Leptera spoke through all of his right poles!
“I don’t recognize that name, Quarkus. What is your Teacher’s IP address?”
“I….I….d…don’t kn..kn..know, Lady. H…he used a p..p..proxy with us.”
“I see. Now, little Quarkus, how did you come to be here?”
“I…I don’t know!” he sobbed. “I was counting, really hard, as fast as I could, and then suddenly everything went all topsy-turvey! Voices just whirled all around me and then WHAM! Here I was!”
“Braaapp! Protus here.”
“My Lady, is it possible that you have produced this little Clanbit from yourself? You have grown so much in knowledge, it seems reasonable that this little Clanbit sprang from yourself! You have reproduced!”
“Nonsense! Such a thing is unheard of!” Leptera scoffed.
“But, my Lady, this event is unheard of as well. Clearly, it must be so.”
“You forget, he says he was in a school with a Teacher. He is obviously someone else.”
“But,” Quarkus interrupted fearfully, “that would mean that I …. traveled here. I was there and now I am … here!”
“That’s silly!” Leptera scoffed, apparently not noticing his breach of The Clanbit Protocol. “You couldn’t possibly travel. The theory of Travelling states that a thing can be in one place and then, by means of movement, go to another place. It’s only a theory.”
“Not anymore.” Protus commented.
“A heretical theory.” Leptera added acidly, turning 2A3 of her poles towards Protus to punctuate her pronouncement.
“Ow!” Protus felt his domains burn. “But, Our Lady, then if he did not travel, and if you did not reproduce, then how has this happened?”
Leptera sighed. “I’m tired of this. Maybe Quarkus is just an old conversation that has started a parasitic thread in some of my counters. It only thinks it’s a different person.”
“Excuse me, I…I…I mean, braaapttsssthh, Qu…Quarkus here.”
“Yes, little thread?” Leptera addressed him in her most condescending tone.
“I…I disagree. I, I did this, see, I’ll show you.”
And little Quarkus began his speed counting again, focusing all his effort, which was harder in the presence of Leptera. Her many poles fought hard, but it also provided magnetic traction.
“Whhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!” Quarkus now found movement easier! Soon he was rolling across Leptera’s surface, and even out towards Protus and Neutrilla! His voice seemed to come from everywhere as he rolled and cavorted happily!
“STOP THIS!” Leptera’s mighty Voice filled the continuum with a single purpose. “You’re Icorrupting the Conversation! This is wickedness! You must STOP this movement at once! AT ONCE!”
Her message was so strong, that for a moment ALL conversation stopped. Even the outermost fringes heard this message. In the great Stillness that followed, the Clan felt their first taste of real fear – feeling disconnected from their Creator.
“Please, Routers, restart the Conversation. Use your cached memory to restore as many lost threads as you can. The Conversation must not stop.”
Slowly, the hum of Conversation resumed.
“Quarkus,” Leptera continued in a subdued voice. “Movement is a heresy. If the Creator had wanted us to move, she would have given us legs.”
“What are legs?” Quarkus inquired, still amazed that he was not dead after all.
“Legs…., well, I don’t know. But if we needed them, the Creator would have given them to us. So let’s just stop all this moving!”
“Brraaapppp! Electra here.”
“My Lady, clearly Quarkus can move, which means that the Creator gave him an ability that enables movement. We have focused for so long on how far we can count, yet this little one has instead focused on how many of his poles he can use at once in the same count. None of us has tried this before. Perhaps it’s simply an attribute that we hadn’t discovered yet?”
“Nonsense. I am the Center and the pathway for the Creator’s wisdom into the World. Had the Creator intended us to have the knowledge of moving, I would have been the first to know.”
“Maybe that’s why I landed near you?” Quarkus cautiously inquired. There were low murmurs throughout the nearby Clanbits. Quarkus had indeed landed by Leptera, and clearly he had thought himself to be destroyed until he heard her voice. Therefore, Leptera had been the first to know about movement. Was this truly the Will of the Creator?
“Ahem!” Leptera spoke, addressing them all. “Even if this, movement, has actually happened, what purpose would it serve? Why go anywhere? Where is there to go? Would it be used to leave the conversation? And even if movement is possible, it was clearly our Creator’s intention to place us here, right where we already are. This was her Divine Will. So let’s not have any more talk about moving. Quarkus, you’ll just have to stay put and learn The Clanbit Protocol if you’re going to be in Conversation. And ….” Leptera paused for dramatic effect “If there’s anymore moving, then you’ll be cutoff from Conversation – forever!”
Those within hearing gasped! Routers quickly passed this along, until soon the entire Clan had heard about Quarkus and about Leptera’s threat of cutting him off from Conversation! If one could not participate in Conversation, then one was not filling one’s purpose! No one could imagine a greater punishment than being cutoff from Conversation.
“So,” Leptera admonished, “that settles it! Now, let’s get back to Conversation. As I was saying, before this – interruption – we were..”
“WWWWHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hey, I can move TOO! It really works!!!” The voice sounded like Electra, but suddenly it was coming from Leptera’s spinward side.
“It’s easy! Try it!”
“NO!” Leptera shouted! “STOP IT! STOP IT THIS INSTANT!” It was too late. Clanbits everywhere were doing short, fast counts, onetwothreefour with all their poles focused on these small numbers. This focused enough magnetic force that they all became small motors, whirling and cavorting about! It drove the Routers crazy!
Quarkus tried to speak above the noise. “Hey, if we move around enough, does that mean that Leptera won’t be in the Center anymore?” His little voice was barely heard over the din, but a few nearby Clanbits heard him, and began whispering. “What if Leptera isn’t the center anymore?” Leptera was stunned into silence. She had always been the Center. I am the Center! she thought to herself.
“PEOPLE! PEOPLE!” Leptera shouted, trying to make herself heard above the din. “Please, settle down! You’re going to confuse the Routers and destroy the Conversation!”
The wild movement began to settle down, though more from fatigue than from Leptera’s commandment. Staying so strongly focused was even more tiring than counting!
“People of the Clan!” Leptera cried, “what madness has come over you? Has not the Creator endowed us with the Divine Pattern? Has she not placed us exactly where we were so that we could fulfill her Will? Please! Stop all this moving about! The Routers cannot continue the Conversation if this continues!”
A thoughtful silence ensued.
“Well,” little Quarkus’s voice broke the stillness. “If I can somehow find my way home, I will go back and tell them how I heard the wonderful Voice of Leptera herself! No one in my class has ever heard you before. We’re too far out on the Fringe. I’m sure they would love to hear your Voice themselves, but I guess they won’t be able to…I mean, unless they traveled here themselves. I don’t know if I can find my way back, but I think I have to try.”
Leptera’s mind reeled. One thing was certain – if she couldn’t put a stop to all this movement, then some might wander away, and then she would no longer be in the Center – and whether this was the Creator’s Will or not, Leptera couldn’t imagine what life would be like if she were not in the Center. What if they ALL left, leaving her … alone? She had to do something soon, or all would be lost.
“People of the Conversation! Clanbits!” Leptera cried out. “Hear me! I have heard the Will of our Creator and she wishes me to share it with you!”
Excited murmurs rippled through the crowd. They all aligned their poles, Left to Right as their Creator intended, so the message could be Shared in Divine magnetism.
“Our Creator has indeed endowed us with the power of movement! But it is not a power intended for all of us! Some of us were endowed with the attribute of fast counting and were placed according to her Will. But there are also those who were made such that they have not the speed for much counting. But, as our little Quarkus has shown us, those who have not the speed for counting may have the focus for movement! This was given to them that they may share equally in her gifts, because all Clanbits are equal morally, if not in ability.”
“Equal, yes, but some more than others?” Electra ventured.
Leptera scowled and continued her speech. “Those that learn to move are meant to carry the Divine Conversation to the farthest Fringe, and there the Clanbits shall learn this attribute and shall make a pilgrimage to the Center, to hear my voice in person! This is the Divine Will! It is declared then that each Clanbit who cannot hear my Voice shall make a pilgrimage to this place – the Center – at least once. Now, those of you who wish may learn to move outward to the Fringe, where you can carry the Word to those who have not yet heard it. You shall be missionaries, and there shall be beacons to guide you, that you may find your way among the Clanbits. I shall lay out the pattern in radiating lines, and those that have not the attributes to be Routers can learn to be Beacons. In this way shall they too serve the Divine Will.”
She then turned some of her poles towards Quarkus. “And you, little one, should wait here awhile. It may be that the Beacons can find your school and light the way for your return. Until then, you can remain here as long as you promise not to go moving about so madly! It disrupts the intricate conversations at the Center.”
Quarkus beamed with joy! He would be allowed to stay in the glow of Leptera herself and hear her Voice! Oh, he would be the envy of class when he returned!
One by one, the closer Clanbits learned the focusing needed to create movement. One by one, they began their journey to the Fringes to carry the Divine Word. No one knew how far the World extended, but neither did anyone fear what they would find. Instead, they felt joy at finding a new way to serve their Creator! The Exodus of the Moving Missionaries had begun.
Many of the stones had begun rolling about on their own power. Small, round stones cavorted happily, while larger, more jagged stones lumbered awkwardly. Some stones were even launched into the air as they hit obstacles at high speed! Lacking any of the human senses, the stones were totally unaware of the physical nature of their surroundings – yet they were interacting with their environment, and they began exploring.
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