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Local Stars: The Meeting at the Bench

Local Stars: The Meeting at the Bench

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Published by Donald Macleay
A man is dragged away from his own death to hold one last political meeting.
A man is dragged away from his own death to hold one last political meeting.

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Published by: Donald Macleay on Apr 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 The Meeting at the BenchRings of redwood trees had been planted in concentric circles around theamphitheater hundreds of years ago; it was closer to a thousand if he had read thesign correctly. The ruins of both the original planted rings and the seats of the theatre were stillvery easy to make out inside the grove. Grove seemed such a small word for sucha large expanse of space under tree tops ten stories high. Trees rose like templecolumns shading the light that filtered to the needles and ferns that formed theforest floor giving one the feeling of being inside a great building. One could seequite a ways through this forest. The overall impression was one of being inside acathedral so large one could not make out the roof.Some of the giant trees had fallen and been turned by the caretakers into raisedpaths. The big round trunks were flattened on the top side providing a walkwayalmost a story above the ground. From place to place steel handrails were attachedto the sides of the massive fallen trees providing many a good place to lean andgaze at this or that vast, spectacular view. Here there was bridge to another fallentree, there one found steps down to where paths continued on the forest floor.Everyone going through this grove to the tress on the edge, that is everyone goingto the end of OM’s life was filtering through these woods or flying like bugs throughthe air through this living temple of ancient trees. The newcomers liked to havetheir tree form at the edge of forests of larger trees.Bill was stopped on an overlook leaning against one of the steel handrails, wherethe forest was still dominated by the oldest, thousand year old trees, growing in along curved line they had been planted in and from which one could see some of the seats of the old Amphitheatre exposed to the air. The way forward was on theback of a fallen tree that had fallen over an edge of that same seating and nowformed a bridge over the ruins.As usual, he was wondering about three things at once when the call came.He was wondering about what they should call the people who had left them theseruins. “Our Ancestors” was quite popular, as was “The Ancestors” and “TheAncients”. How inaccurate that was could not be more stunning. No, not a humanand not anyone else who had any claim to that name of Descendant was anywherenear this world. No one knew where the descendants of this world’s first people fledto during the war. This was now a world becoming twice settled. What was thesecond civilization going to call the one before it? Other worlds were abandonedand most, if not all of them, were going to get a second turn. Yet there was noname for the first round. He liked “The Ancients” which many used, yet they werenot that ancient and they were not “our” Ancients. His own world had twocivilizations following each other with an 8,000 year gap, but both of those hadproper names and they were the ancestors of one of the two modern peoples. TheAncients were human, but also gone without a trace and without any descendants.He kind of liked “First Colony” which was at least accurate for this world.
In the distracted way that drove everyone who had ever been romantically involvedwith him up a wall he was also just looking at the forest and wondering how muchlonger he could wander and dawdle before the ceremony. Looking at the way thisredwood grove had been cared for he had a few side thoughts about seeing more of the grove today. Judging by the probable age of the trees turned into paths and thegrowth on the side rails he also figured that there had been hundreds of yearswhere these paths were waiting for feet to walk on them, attended to only by thecare taking machines.And as if not enough was on his mind, he was spending at least some of hisawareness thinking of OM on this day. He had seen the “ceremony” before. Clearlyit was sex. He was among those who thought of this as OM’s death. And yet, therewas going to be a new life. OM was such that when he spoke, Bill was at thecomputer listening raptly as a politician, as a friend and as something of a follower.Bill had become a lot of all three in the years it had taken to get here and startsettlement. Now OM’s time had come and he could not imagine anywhere else hewanted to be despite the fact that he was going to see his friend turn into gel anddissolve into the flower of a mother tree. Everyone who had seen it, includinghimself and a good number of OM’s own people figured that it was death as weknow it. Yet if a seed was born, she would remember some of what OM used toremember.“How quickly humans had become part of the existential doubts of these plantbased peoples. It was not enough to have doubts about our own form of death, butwe had become voyeurs at the end of life realizations of this refugee species.” Hewondered to himself half mumbling enough so Molly heard it.And then the phone rang. It rang for him; it rang for Molly; it rang for the ArtooansShina and Ru making it clear that this was a government call; l-Tee-m and her mostpreferred mate o-Tee-k were also to be seen ahead on the trail pulling out theirpersonals, it rang for a seed named ETM3 and it even rang for OM who was bussingabove him about 10 meters over the forest floor in a state of pre-sex ecstasy.All the names appeared on the caller list along with two artificial intelligences whowere both shown as the callers, which was not supposed to be possible, but theyran the phones.“This is really the wrong time and the wrong person” snapped OM understandablyinto his receiver in a way that did not require a lot of computer based interpreting tounderstand.“And if we waited?” came the computer mind response. It was the General beingsarcastic.Bill was brought to his senses by that. Not everyone had left Trans Two. Theartificial intelligences had remained. They were the ones who had cared for thetrees, who had decided that the amphitheater would be allowed to fall into ruin. They were the ones who had called and what they wanted was a meeting. Theywanted OM at that meeting and therefore they wanted that meeting right now.
Ranger Rick, who was in desperate need of a more serious sounding name and TheGeneral told, did not ask, them where to meet them “in person” whatever thatmeant for a computer based life form.OM cracked a very good joke about how a politician could not get out of having onelast meeting on his last day in this life and since he agreed to go to this meeting,everyone else was going to follow.Bill had to call for a personal. OM just flew to where they were going. The othersmade their own way in different ways all getting there before Bill and Molly. There was a bench. It looked like it was carved out a solid piece of crystal and itlooked impossibly old. How long did it take for cut crystal to look worn and weatherbeaten? How long did it take for the writing and etchings to be blurred andunreadable? How long had this dirt road been there? The dirt road stretched along,slightly uphill from the bench to the north and slightly downhill to the south. Leveland below them ran elevated mag rail tracks from “The Ancients” that everyoneknew to be in perfect working order. The view over the tracks down the valley gaveto the sea. Whoever had built this bench had chosen a view second to none. The AI had set out more modern chairs of the right type for everyone.As Bill and Molly got off the shared personal, the others were settling into chairsspread in something like a circle including the bench, leaving the transit devices upand downhill from the meeting. Ranger Rick was present through one of his floatingtrackers and The General had his original avatar sitting on the end of the bench withhis back to the view facing into the circle.OM declined a chair, flopped his leg stringers in all directions and let his pod land onthe dirt next to the bench which he leaned against with arm stringers flopping overand around enough of the bench to keep him from falling over. He was having ahard time. This close to mating his hormones were flying and his body was gettingready to dissolve into the sperm that he was. Emotionally he was a man who had just delayed orgasm (and death). Even the non-seeds could see it. He was first tospeak.“You have us here. What is so important that you are making me work on my lastday?” That was another fair question in Bob’s mind.“We are sorry” said The General “We were surprised how fast it developed”“AI are always surprised by the sex drive” someone laughed. Bill did not catch who,but smiled.“We decided that we needed exactly this group and the funeral brought you allhere” The General told OM directly. “We especially wanted you here he added.”“Anything in particular on your mechanical minds today?” OM quipped and invitedthe meeting to start.

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