The Eight of Swords
A Very Confusing Exit Strategy
Jim would have willingly stayed longer, but the Spirit which had brought him here now was beckoning that it was time to leave. Never a word was exchanged, but all seemed to understand the historic significance of the encounter.
It was not difficult for the trio to lose anyone who was following them before finding themselves preparing for departure. Within a matter of seconds John and Jim's merkabah units merged, ready to envelop the travelers. Xang was glad to reenter the Box units and within seconds they were in Earth orbit retrieving satellites preparing for warp.
Xuang was full of questions. "What was all that about? You bend space and time to give rich gifts to some infant in a stable and claim him to be the greatest king of all time. What sort of nonsense is this father?"
John volunteered to explain Jim's behavior to his grandson. "That child is the first of the immortals, Xuang. You must bear in mind that we were all conceived at a time in the future of the Earth we just visited. Were it not for this child, we and civilization itself would not exist."
"How can that be, grandfather?"
"It is a great mystery, Xuang, and we may be the first to see this mystery unravel itself. You did notice that your father said very little to anyone and absolutely nothing about our origin. Now read this record from Earth's twentieth century archives."
John had Genie retrieve a few verses from the Biblical text of Matthew and showed it to Xuang.
"But we only just did that? How can it be that Genie already has a record? Did you know of this fact while you made the visit?"
"Yes, both your father and I knew. I just learned only after my rendezvous with the two of you when he revealed to me his plans. There’s no telling what prompted him to do this. There could have been three other kings, but no, Jim has to grab that role for the three of us. It is that remarkable Genie of his which allows him to do such tricks. His unit is a little bolder than my own, yet as you see, it all fits in after all. We must also give him credit as well, Xuang. There is no telling what his imagination has in store for us and he will tell you that the adventure has only just begun."
Xuang did not know what to say. It suddenly dawned upon him how much power the owners of the dual merkabah units had at their disposal. He had always taken them for granted.
"Your ignorance of history protected you, Xuang, as it did Isis, Jim and myself at first. Now we all have realized we learned how to tamper with Earth's history, nor are we finished. On board we have at our disposal a history of our own future, if we dared to look. The paradox avoidance system restrains Genie from revealing to us information which we need not know. Every time, Genie has been able to confirm our experiences as being what really happened. "
"This is all very incredible. Have you ventured into the past of Artemis itself?"
"That is not to be desired and must be prevented Xuang. Because we are alien to Earth we have been somehow able to intermingle with Earth's past. You must remember the one time that I ventured into the past of Artemis mistaking you for your father. Perhaps such journeys somehow occur, because Aphrodite was aware of the need to return you to your mother. Consider the miracle of your own existence. Try to explain the nature of your conception, birth, history, and present existence. No one on Earth at any time thus far would ever believe that you are possible."
"Yet here I am, and they don't believe in you or father either I suppose?"
"That depends. Only recently did the Americans learn of our origins, and now they are expecting us to return and give them godlike counsel. I really do not feel up to that. Isis is more than willing to govern, but Jim feels that we should allow them to self-govern, and so do I, and.....so shall you."
"But they have already learned our ways , for we have taught them."
"They are their own species, and they need to be independent of us."
"But now they fear us and regard us as a threat."
"Only because we threaten their independence."
"A society of independent humans? That must be quite a state of disorder."
"Don't be so skeptical Xuang. It is true that you accomplished a great feat by unifying your neck of the woods in the Orient which pleased your mother immensely. She thought that was a very great achievement and is very proud of your effort. It is a great accomplishment Xuang, but humanity does not live for society. Each individual is a creature with the right to enjoy the few years of creature being content with its own existence. We need not heap artificial social burdens on our subjects, for they will learn to hate us and fear us because of these excessive burdens we impose on them."
"John, can you take Xuang with you for now, I must return again to the past and Xuang cannot go. Idiot confirms that it cannot allow him on my next journey. Sorry, son."
Xuang knew better than to argue with Genie. Although he had only just now learned the computer's true password, he had always known its nature. Password or not, the Idiot was never going to do the impossible. Xuang had learned enough of the dangers of time travel to realize that to tempt what Idiot considered impossible would be downright foolishness. If it were possible for Xuang to go along with Jim, the Idiot would most certainly not have objected in the slightest. Jim assured him however that he would be taking him back to Artemis with him next time he visited.
"Idiot shall maintain a subspace beacon circuit with you, John, if you don't mind. When I'm finished I shall give you a call. I'll need you to activate your portal at that time so I can come to you to fetch my son."
"Perhaps I shall give you a call, Jim, when I am done with him. I have a nice little adventure of my own for him, and a nice legend it shall be at that." He smiled at Jim. Trust me this once, my son. I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. I shall make a fine Christian king out of your son, Xuang. Perhaps you may find this court to be more of your liking than even China, even though the kingdom is not quite as expansive.
"Tell me more, grandfather."
"Not before your time. Of course we could always return you to Artemis."
"No, I'll go along, but can't you tell me just a little of where we are headed?"
"Not a bit. Are you game, but mind you, you must abide by my rules, otherwise the adventure is over and home to mother you go?"
"Agreed." Xuang had no desire to return to Artemis and play social games with his sister and her friends. "But what about Hatshepsut?"
"Hatshepsut?" John queried.
"Yes, father tells me I must return to Hatshepsut. How am I to return to her and go with you as well, grandfather?"
"Yes, Jim. How can you make two distinct future plans for your son? You know that must confuse him."
"I don't know John. It just seems to be the requirements of the mission. It would make sense for Xuang to wrap up his adventure with Hatshepsut, before he goes off with you."
"Well I suggest he do so, and possibly do the same with a few others. Then I will take him under my tutelage for a short while."
"Perhaps you can return with him to Egypt and assist him, father."
"I would prefer not to further involve myself with that particular era, Jim. He’ll be able to manage partially by himself. You will need to arrange for transportation of his consorts from Artemis back to the home planet. That’s your trick, Q.”
"OK, Xuang will no longer have Isis or any of our devices to protect him from harm, but I am not going to materialize on Earth to help him. I’ll be able to quickly work in a transition routine for Genie, so that he can work better within the manifolds during my own independent transitions to arrange displacement. Certainly Xuang’s strength will protect him from most dangers, and we certainly cannot afford to subject him to any possibility of mortal danger. Paradox avoidance already protects you to a great extent Xuang, so there are not many modifications really needed.. Idiot advises me that the Egyptian window is limited to my presence, because I already exist during that time period at some other location than Egypt. You on the other hand, so Genie tells me, have no such restrictions."
"Very well put, my son, so now we are also aware that only you can return Hatshepsut and any others to Aretmis."
"I am aware of that. I have given Xuang a beacon to effect retrieval. We can scram when the beacon is activated, and an interface window and portal will be available for tele-transport. I will show up through the gateway to retrieve Hatshepsut and others in the same fashion. You can still take Xuang with you then, if we still desire to do this. Everything will be somewhat time independent of Earth then, so we do not need to worry so much about any causal violations."
"That sounds like the plan. I can then go anywhere and to anytime when I leave, my dear Q or Jim, my boy, I do not desire to wait. Don’t mind me calling you ‘Q’, do you? Can you have Idiot feed my computers the details of the beacon?"
"Yes, Idiot give John's merkabah the beacon design. No, I do not mind. Call me ‘Q’ as much as you like. It sounds better than the way you say ‘Qblh’, ‘Jim’, or even ‘Son’. It makes no difference to me what name you call me so long as I know you are talking to me."
"Acknowledged, Jim. Download complete."
"There you have the plans, father."
"Thank you, my dear Q. What happens next till we meet again will be for myself perhaps just a moment, but for the two of you, a little longer."