Who Is Gramps?
Gramps was standing in front of a row of cliff dwellings, which reminded me of the ancient cliff dwellings I had seen in Arizona and New Mexico.
“Gramps appeared because you requested that he appear,” McKaren explained as she landed close to Gramps.
“You said Gramps is a generated image. I was thinking about him and silently asked that he appear, so you generated the image. Is that what happened, McKaren?” I asked.
“Yes. That’s exactly what happened,” McKaren answered.
“I’m still trying to get used to the idea that you know what I’m thinking, so when I think I want him to appear, you make it happen.”
“Yes, that is correct. However, don’t forget that I hear only what you allow me to hear.”
“I’ll remember that. Just how much do you know about Gramps?”
“Everything,” McKaren replied. “You might say I downloaded all the information about Gramps, including his complete memory. I know everything Gramps knows.”
“When Gramps said he would be visiting Arn and I again here on Hoth, did he mean you would be here with us, acting on Gramps behalf?” I asked.
“More or less. In a sense, I am McKaren and I am also Gramps. I am all that Gramps is and I am more. The Gramps you see standing near us is a generated image, only an image. However, if you like, I can change into Gramps, a flesh-and-blood Gramps that you can touch and hug. Then I will be the Gramps you know in every respect.”
“But the real Gramps is still back in the time I came from?” I asked McKaren.
“All that is Gramps until the moment you left that time is still back in that time. All of that Gramps and more is here with you. I’ve taken on a different form so that I can provide functions that the Gramps you know cannot provide.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” I said.
“It will, Tammy. It will eventually make sense to you. Understand that you need me in this form with the enhanced functions I have for this part of your journey. I am what you and Arn need right now.”
Arn, who had remained silent while McKaren and I had discussed Gramps, pointed to the spot where Gramps had been standing.
“Gramps just disappeared. What happened?”
“Weren’t you listening, Arn? McKaren is Gramps.”
“I don’t get it. McKaren is some kind of flying car that can make itself look like a human female. Gramps was a human. A male. Not a car or a woman.”
“I am all of those, Arn,” McKaren commented. “I have abilities that I did not have previously. I will use some of those abilities to help you and Tammy.”
Get Us Out of Here
“Can you get us out of Hoth?” Arn asked.
“You must both remain here, McKaren answered. “However, Tammy will leave Hoth in approximately two years.”
“Why? Why will she stay two years and then leave?” Arn demanded.
“Some things must be seen and must be experienced to be understood and believed. While Tammy is here, she will gain understanding and will be your faithful companion.”
“I don’t get to go with her?”
“Tammy is on a journey, a journey that does not end when she leaves Hoth.”
“What is the purpose of my journey?” I asked McKaren.
“To gain understanding of what lies behind and what lies ahead.”
“You’re speaking in riddles again.” Arn interjected. “Yeah, I know. They’re riddles only until we understand. So when will we understand?”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself, Arn. You will understand. But first, we will be together here on Hoth for a couple of years,” McKaren said.
Suddenly we were no longer sitting inside McKaren. We were standing in the exact place where the image of Gramps had been standing.
We turned around. Gramps stood there smiling.
“Now I’m the flesh and blood Gramps both of you knew. Come here and hug me.”
Arn and I rushed to Gramps and discovered that he was flesh and blood. We group hugged.
“We thought you were just a generated image. Wait a minute, McKaren has disappeared. What happened, Gramps?” I asked.
“You don’t need to understand now, but what McKaren told you is correct. McKaren and I are one and the same. McKaren in the form of the flying Land Rover can do many things Gramps’ original body cannot do. Trust her. It is me.”
“If you don’t have McKaren’s abilities, are we safe here?” Arn asked.
Who Are You?
“I didn’t say I don’t have McKaren’s abilities,” Gramps replied.
We heard a cracking noise above us. A chunk of the cliff face the size of a truck broke loose from the cliff face and fdell directly toward us. Gramps held out his hand. The rock stopped mid-air.
“Let’s put this in a safe place,” Gramps said as he lowered the huge boulder past us and into the sea.
“You’re totally scaring me, Gramps,” I said. “I don’t know who you are.
“Think of me as an enhanced Gramps. Gramps plus. The Gramps who can protect the two of you in a hostile environment.”
“I’ll accept you at face value.”
“So will I,” Arn chimed in.
Suddenly Arn and I were sitting back inside McKaren.
“What just happened?” Arn asked.
“I showed you my Gramps form in an effort to help establish my identity to you.” McKaren answered.
“Do these people know we’re here/” I asked.
“No. They do not monitor this approach to the settlement. There is no vehicle on the planet other than myself that can approach from this direction, and they are unaware of my existence.”
The Cliff Dwellers
“Tell us about this place, McKaren,” I requested.
“That I can do, Tammy. The cliff dwellers are the smallest Western settlement. Only one hundred seventy nine people live here. You see the actual cliff dwellings. Until the great chaos was past, anyone else would have seen what appears to be the face of a sheer cliff.”
“Another generated image?” I asked.
“Yes, a generated image of sorts. The idea was that no one passing by in a boat or plane during the great chaos would give the place a second glance. They would see only a rock face. It worked. None of the rebels knew there was a settlement here.
“Now, however, the image has been turned off. It is unnecessary. There is no longer any threat to this settlement from anyone. Would you like to see the settlement now?”
“Yes,” Arn and I both answered.
“Are there workers here?” I asked. “What do they do?”
“Yes, there are workers. A few are goons, as you refer to them, and the rest…well, let’s take a look and see if you can figure it out.”
McKaren slowly moved just above the dwellings, which were set back in the recess in the cliff at least a hundred feet. The buildings had flat roofs. There were no people in sight, and nothing on top of the roofs. The place looked deserted.
Beyond the buildings we came to a large open area deeper into the cliff recess. Most of the population of the settlement appeared to be standing at long tables, leaning over, apparently working on something.
“Can you see what they’re doing?” McKaren asked as we moved closer.
“They’re making something,” Arn said. “Wait. I see piles of shoes and boots on those tables at the end. They’re making shoes and boots.”
“That’s right,” McKaren told us. “All of the factories and machines used to make shoes were destroyed during the chaos, so now these workers make shoes for the western settlements by hand.”
“Where do they get the materials if the factories were destroyed?” I asked.
“Later we will visit a settlement that produces the cloth and makes the clothes for the western settlements. A heavy duty version of that cloth is sent here, along with synthetic shoe and boot soles, which are also produced by that same settlement. The workers here cut, sew and assemble those materials into shoes and boots by hand.”
“How do they get those materials in here and the finished shoes out?” Arn asked. “I don’t even see a ladder.
“The two large doors on the wall to your left are elevator doors,” McKaren replied. “The elevator shaft emerges near the cliff top. Incoming materials are brought here by trucks, which pick up assembled shoes.”
“Where do they get their water and power?” I asked.
“The water comes from a small, hidden desalination plant in the cliff below us. The power comes from solar panels in the hills above us.”
“The rebels didn’t see that stuff?” Arn asked.
“No, they didn’t. This place is a long way from any former towns or cities. Very few people knew about it. The rebels never knew it existed.”
“Who paid for the solar panels and desalination plant?” I asked.
“The very wealthy family who owned the property used this as their private retreat. They converted some of the residences into spartan living quarters reminiscent of those Indian cliff dwellers might have used.
“They had the desalination plant built so they could have water and the solar panels so they could have power for their technological devices. The generated cliff face image was installed by the revolutionaries.
“The desalination plant was not originally intended to provide water for this many people. However the settlement uses the water only for human needs, primarily drinking, cooking and bathing, so the plant is adequate.
“The desalination plant is the major user of the power produced by the solar panels. This open-sided cave we’re in is well lit during daylight hours. Very little power is needed for other purposes.”
“So instead of weaving, drying maize and taking care of children like the ancients did, we basically have cobblers?” I asked.
“Yes, if you consider those who assemble cloth and synthetic soles cobblers, Tammy.”
Defensible and Hidden
“I think we’re already seeing a pattern here,” I observed. “All the settlements are in either very defensible locations like headquarters and Karma Gardens, or in hidden, obscure locations like the cave and the cliff dwellings.”
“That’s more or less correct, Tammy,” McKaren answered. “The revolutionaries had the fire power to defend only a few locations, so the others needed to be in obscure locations. As you have also undoubtedly noticed, every settlement needs access to water and power, as well as a usable road or air landing strip nearby.”
“If the rebels pretty much destroyed the planet, how could the revolutionaries have known which locations to choose for the settlements before the chaos began? How would they know which ones would still have accessible roads or landing strips after the chaos was pretty much over?” Arn asked.
“Good question, Arn. They didn’t know. The revolutionaries selected sites that met all of their other requirements, and had at least two roads in, and usually at least one nearby landing strip. The revolutionaries seized seventeen western settlements either just before the chaos began or just after.”
“Seventeen!” Arn exclaimed. “I thought you said there are eight.”
“Yes, there are now eight. The rebels destroyed two settlements, and the others became inaccessible by both land and air and were abandoned. Of the eight that remain, three can be reached only by truck by indirect routes, sometimes over poor roads.”
“So the revolutionaries just walked in and took over these places?” Arn asked.
“Hardly, as you would say. First they did their research and made plans. Then they acquired more members, an arsenal of weaponry, planes, trucks and other supplies. They trained and prepared and then took each location by force. Almost no one was prepared for them, so they acquired most of the locations they wanted.”
“Is there anything else to see here?”
“Not at this time, Tammy. We should be heading back to headquarters and we can talk on the way.”
We turned and slowly exited the cliff dwellings. Some part of me felt like I was leaving a long-ago home to which I had just returned.
I should be down there grinding corn and preparing vegetables for dinner, then sleep in the house I myself built. Life was so much simpler then.
McKaren quickly took us high above the dirty clouds and we burst into bright sunlight once again. Arn winced, as if the bright light hurt his eyes.
Arn, how could they do this to you and this planet? Those greedy bastards. Why am I here? Why did Gramps come here? Oh yeah, Arn says Gramps told him I asked him to. What for? What can I do here? Technology of any kind isn’t going to fix this. This planet and every living thing on it is doomed.
A tear or two slid out of my eye. I never cry. At least Arn didn’t notice.
McKaren or Gramps or whoever it is says I get to leave in two years. I have to leave Arn behind? That is so unfair. Why does he have to stay behind? Because he can’t travel through time? How did the man on the rock send me here? Why did he send me here? When I get back there, we’re going to have a very serious talk.
“…but on your next day off. That should be soon enough,” McKaren said.
“Huh? Did I miss something? Our next day off?” I asked.
“Kind of difficult to keep up with Arn and my’s discussion when your mind is on bastards,” Mckaren said, laughing.
“You were listening in?”
“You were letting me.”
“Oh, yeah, I was. And yeah, they were bastards.”
“Be that as it may, Tammy, they’re dead.”
“And they’re taking the planet and Arn with them.”
“That disturbs you?”
“Good. It should.”
“McKaren’s reading your mind again?” Arn asked me.
“Oh, I was just thinking about the bastards who destroyed the planet. McKaren overheard.”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Arn said.
“There’s not?” McKaren asked.
“Aha…You’re saying there is, aren’t you?” I demanded of McKaren.
“No. I’m merely asking what you and Arn think.”
“I don’t see what we can do,” Arn said. “What about you, Tammy?”
“I don’t either. But then why did I come here from the past and why did I send Gramps here? To keep you company? McKaren says I get to go back, but not you.”
“Rip-off, McKaren. Rip-off. I finally find one person on this stinking planet I love and I have to leave him here in two years to shrivel up and die with the rest of these poor people?”
McKaren did not reply.
“That’s cruel. Why not just leave me at home and then I’d never see this mess? I’d never have met Arn.”
McKaren did not reply.
Where Are the Answers?
“Can anything be done, McKaren?” Arn asked.
“No and yes. At this point can we cure the planet? – No. A most emphatic no. At least not in your lifetime. The human race will soon be extinct on Hoth.”
“Then what’s the yes?” Arn asked.
“The answers lie elsewhere, if there are answers.”
“Elsewhere?” I asked.
“Yes, elsewhere. Elsewhere in time.”
“Please explain, Gramps,” I asked.
“Yes, you may both call me McKaren or Gramps.”
“And I know you by another name.”
“Yes, you do, but we won’t go there now.”
“Your education has already begun. You both have much to learn – about Hoth, about earth, about time, about the heart of man, about yourselves. We will be continuing your education every day you are here,” McKaren continued. You are both very bright, but I am unable to download all of this to you in the next few minutes. The download must be done the old way. It will take about two years.”
“And then?” Arn asked.
“Then Tammy must continue on her journeys.”
“Yes, Arn. What do you think you should do?”
“I’ll stay here with you delivering supplies to whoever is still alive until they’re all dead. They’re my people.”
“Good answer, Arn,” McKaren said.
“No!” I shrieked. But only McKaren could hear me. “If he stays I stay too! That’s an order, McKaren.”
McKaren said nothing.