“The border between the Real and the Unreal is not fixed, but just marks the last place where rival gangs of shamans fought each other to a standstill.”
– Robert Anton Wilson
“There’s so few of us now,” Lucinda said. He stepped over the wreckage of the passenger craft down the torn remnants of a hallway. “Ebabwe is gone, so is Helena. There are so few of us to shape things anymore.”
Thomas nodded. “The old ways are passing,” he intoned sadly.
Lucinda smiled. “They always do. Every generation gets to see it ending. I for one am glad it does.”
Thomas nodded. “True. I am too inflexible. I of all people should know about multiple perspectives.”
Lucinda nodded. “Ours and others.” She looked down the once-opulent hallway and shuddered at the terror that must have radiated from here a mere two hours ago. They were in a ship floating dead in space. The ambulatory ships had long departed, carrying away the wounded and the dead. The rest were evacuated and on another passenger ship heading towards Europa.
Repair craft hovered around the derelict ship like bees around a hive. Thomas and Lucinda stood at the large hole of the craft, looking out into space. They wore loose-fitting white shirts and slacks. A slight, blue shimmer surrounded them, joining them as in one bubble.
“Do you have any likely candidates?” Thomas asked.
“A few. They look younger every year, but I look older so as usual it all balances out,” Lucinda said absentmindedly as she inspected the torn metal.
“Any idea what did this?” Thomas asked.
“No explosives,” Lucinda said, “But it wasn’t explosive decompression. The hull caves in, not out. Impact, they say.”
“They found fragments of tungsten through the ship. It looks like someone launched a lance at the ship at a good fraction of the speed of light. Who needs something complex as an internal mechanism and explosive mix when enough velocity will create all of the damage you want.”
“A lance,” Thomas mused. “Something as simple as a tungsten pole?”
“Yes, and launched with a fair amount of precision. But not an amazing amount. This is a regular shuttle between Io and Europa. It’s easy to pinpoint once you get the numbers right.”
“It would have to have been launched by something moving at least as fast as the lance.” Thomas mused.
“…Launched at a good amount of speed, then allowing Jupiter’s gravitational pull to add velocity,” Thomas said. “So not a sophisticated group… just smart.”
Lucinda shook his head. “Dedicated. To something. We cannot speculate yet.” She looked out of the hole in the craft towards Jupiter, shying away from her thoughts. The gas giant dominated the sky, tan clouds swirling violently in what felt like preternatural silence. She had a jab of deja vu, but it passed.
“What are you thinking?” Thomas asked.
“I am trying not to,” Lucinda answered. “I am sure the answer will come to me so long as I’m not worrying at it like a dog with a bone. What were the total casualties?’
“One hundred and thirty seven people were killed instantly. Decompression pulled out fifty six more. A little less than half were rescued.” Thomas sighed.
“One hundred and ninety-three total victims, one hundred and sixty-seven deaths,” Lucinda muttered. “One, six, seven; or one, nine, three. Mean anything to you, Thomas?”
He shook his head. “I hope it’s not like it usually is – that we don’t see the connection until it is too late.”
“Think of a random number,” Faulk said. “Any random number at all.” He crossed his arms in challenge. He looked over the children in the classroom.
A light breeze stealthed through the windows, carrying spring coolness with it. Most of the kids were mentally lifted away by that breeze and away from the present, just as Faulk knew they would be. He could remember childhood as well. It is why he permitted the doors at the academia to be lifted, letting in the sound of the faded pink cherry blossom flowers shushing in the breeze.
The children were all in the same uniform: white, billowy cotton with long sleeves and bell-shaped pant legs which draped above their bare feet. Every child’s head was closely shaved. Faulk was in the same dress with his bright red hair closely shaved into stubble until there was scarcely anything save a bronze nimbus around his head. There was nothing indicating he was a teacher. That was the point.
They were all sitting on the ground in varying positions of comfort, some with pillows, others cross legged. All were taken in by the spring day.
Faulk turned towards one of the children in the back. “One of you can help me out. Stosh, tell me a random number.”
“Six,” Stosh said.
Faulk’s eyebrows raised. “Was that truly random?”
Stosh nodded his head. “It was the first number I could think of.”
Faulk smiled and shook his head. “It was not random, although you think it is. Six leapt to your mind first because it was already foremost in your thoughts. Six has a lot of meaning in your life. Your birth date has one sex in it. Your sister is six years old. Your examination is on the first day of the fifth month, one plus five equalling six. Six is meaningful to you, and so is not in the least random.”
Stosh looked down sadly. Faulk walked over to him, his bare feet scarcely making a sound on the bamboo flooring. “Stosh, please,” he said. “You strive too hard. The important point is not to actually name a truly random number. The important point is to show you that if you know where and how to look, you will see that very little is actually random when it comes to people. Meaning suffuses us, if you choose to look at it from that view.”
Faulk turned and walked back to the class, his arms clasped behind him. “It is important for you to realize that there are connections like this in everything we think and do.” He turned around and expanded his hands. “What we think is random is a reflection of who we think we are, and who we think we are controls what we see. Do any of you think that there is such a thing as fate? Raise your hands.”
A good third of the children raised their hands.
“The rest of you don’t? Or are you afraid of answering from the terror of being wrong? Do you already seek to gain my favor by anticipating my answers?” He looked long at the students.
“Your gaining my favor is meaningless to your progress. I am not the one who you pass through the attain your position. I am not the decider of your future. There are no grades here. So please tell me, who here doesn’t believe in fate?”
Another third of the classroom raised their hands.
“And that leaves seven children unaccounted for. So are all seven of you timid?” Faulk asked. “Still afraid to answer? Still…”
A child named Faustina stood. “Excuse me, Faulk,” she said. “I cannot answer your question.”
“Why not?” Faulk asked. “Is there something wrong with my question?”
“Your question is meaningless, Faulk. It has no bearing on things.”
Faulk’s brow furrowed. He frowned and anger flashed in his eyes. “You dare accuse me of wasting your time, child? You think I am here just speaking for no reason? Or do you think I have nothing to teach you?”
“No,” Faustina said. “You have so much to teach, but your question is silly.”
Faulk drew himself up to full height, towering over Faustina. His arms crossed and his stance widened. His race grew red and his eyes widened with rage. “Out with it, idiot,” he snapped. “What special reasoning do you have for questioning MY teaching? What is wrong with my very important question about fate? Is it too complicated for a tiny mind like yours to understand?!”
Faustina smiled slightly and never broke her gaze. “No, it is just the question about whether or not we believe in fate is silly. If fate exists, then we are fated to do whatever we’re gonna do whether we intend to or not. So there’s no point in wondering about it because the future is already set – we cannot change it and therefore we’re not responsible. If there is no fate, then there is no point in wondering about something that doesn’t exist. We’re gonna do whatever we do anyway, fate or not. Our opinion about fate doesn’t matter.”
Faulk smiled brightly and dropped to his knees in front of her. He bowed. “Little Shaman,” he said, beaming. “I bow to your wisdom.”