SHIELDS FROM THE GODDESS
Dreamed 1996/8/3 by Chris Wayan
Our starship settles into orbit around a dry but inhabited world. It's ruled by an ambitious General. He's magnetic, enthusiastic, expansionist: he thinks he has their Goddess's support to spread their way of life to nearby worlds.
Maybe she has sanctioned it; the planet has mysterious caves said to have been left by the Goddess, and someone certainly left SOMETHING: the cave walls crawl with moving geometric patterns--complex programs are still running. Two huge ovals like shields hang at the ends of the tunnels. The General's people have space technology but are behind us starship people in computer science; so the General asks if our systems experts can analyze these cave-wall patterns.
We agree to try.
I meet him in the sacred caves to hear the preliminary report. Maia, our chief tech, says "These geometric patterns are decoys. Complex, all right, but they do nothing but distract you. Layers and layers of them, interwoven. It's taken us days to parse them out and see what's left. Hidden inside, a line here a line there, is a simple program whose output is displayed over here."
A triangular field, with coordinates; some kind of navigation aid? Our ship shows up plainly--depicted as a crawling fly! We watch it as local ships sail up to meet us. The geometry's triangular not rectilinear, but clear enough.
Oops! It just changed! Now our ship's a tiny cartoon of a coyote, leaving a slow trail of varicolored streaks--streaks that are the local way of writing MUSIC!
Our ship is a coyote, howling? But the notes are too harmonious. A song. Why is our SHIP writing a SONG?
We hear voices behind us and turn to see twin blonde girls in their mid-teens, with epicanthic eyes, and weird feathers woven in their hair. They seem sweet, ethereal, and not at all human. They slipped in just as the display changed our ship into a musical coyote, and I don't think it's a coincidence. One says "We're emissaries from the Goddess." We believe it--they radiate a clean aura, a whole-body halo.
Each twin claims one of the Shields on the wall. They don't take them away though--they move into the caves with us. Strange to get to know divine emissaries on a daily basis.
Though twins, they're easy to tell apart because they always wear distinct outfits. One's in a belted minidress with a high collar, hiding her neck while showing off her legs; the other wears long skirts with scoop neck and bare back; she wants this to float straplessly and asks me to figure out a way. The best I can do is one small loop behind her neck, nearly hidden by her hair. Their clothes reflect their attitudes: each likes to hide what the other likes to show off! Clothes seem new to them, a game. I wonder if their bodies are, too. I find them equally attractive; confused, can't decide? Too overwhelmed by their beauty (and strong auras) to even try coming on to either one.
And maybe they ARE beyond me, above me. But I won't know till I try.
The General enlists them in his campaign to find the Legendary Talismans that will tell him where to spread the Goddess's word, and how to do it.
Long scenes here I've forgotten--intrigue, flying through space to a nearby planet, finding caves there too, adventures in the caves... But they don't matter, for nowhere, nowhere, nowhere can he find the Sacred Talismans.
But at last, deep in a dead-end lava tunnel, the twins find a single huge shield hanging on the wall. The logos on it are unmistakable. It's meant for the General! Now he'll learn his Goddess's will.
As soon as we all can see, the shield comes alive with the image of the Goddess.
No doubt about who the twins are, now, either. A family resemblance.
The Goddess says, "All the decoys and programs and even the Emissaries are aimed at YOU." I feel a jolt at that word 'aimed', and at the edge in her voice. He's been sure it's his job to head outward, spread the word. And she sounds wary of him, her strongest follower!
"General, I do NOT support your plans. You're arrogant. You're sure. You have to change." And the Goddess disappears.
He sits glumly for days before the Shield, the shield declaring him two things at once: a great man, beyond ordinary mortals, nearly on a par with the Twins themselves... and a fuck-up who needs to change his life.
Finally the twins come get me and go into the cave, interrupt his reverie. Maybe their mom sent a quiet message, or maybe they figured it out on their own: they reach up and together lift the General's shield off the wall and turn it around. Shelves are built in its hollow back! On them are all the talismans. He's sought them everywhere, and the Goddess hid them here because it's the ONE place he would never have looked on his own. Take down the sacred shield, the shield that sets him up on a par with the Goddess's Emissaries? She didn't want him to use these tools, set himself up as a little god. He's shocked and humiliated AGAIN, as She hoped.
But will it bring him to his senses, tell him what to do?
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