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Little One

Copyright © 1987, 2005 by Greg Slade

In human terms, she was huge. The Spirit of Waikiki was the largest mobile object ever created by man. Stretching for nearly a kilometre from the crest of her dust shield to the trailing edge of her radiator fins, with the smooth grace which comes naturally when form follows function instead of fashion. Because she wasn't intended to be admired from the outside, she was all the more admirable for her clean lines which spoke of power and strength.

Of course, even with the rise of deep space tourism, no company could possibly recover the cost of such a ship on passenger revenues alone. Waikiki had most of her payload mass reserved for cargo, but still nearly 1,500 passengers were booked to tour the rings of Saturn while Pan-Galactic Space Lines went about the more mundane business of delivering food, oxygen, and sundries to the colonies scattered through Saturn's moons, and loading fertilizers, fusion fuels, and other chemicals for the inner planets. It took her nearly a year to complete a circuit from Earth to Saturn and back, but the company spared no effort to see that the passengers, crew, and cargo made the trip without tedium, discomfort, or danger.

In human terms, she was tiny. Although she was sixteen years old, she hadn't yet reached 150 centimetres, and she still massed only 40 kilograms. Her age mates, especially those from the colonies, towered over her. Her mother jokingly told her that being born in Earth's gravity had stunted her growth, but she didn't find it very funny, and her blue eyes would flash dangerously when adults would comment on how cute she was with her diminutive frame and her strawberry blonde curls. She wished desperately that her body would catch up with her questing mind, but it stubbornly retained its compact size and girlish shape.

Connie liked to spend her free time, that is, when she wasn't in classes, or having to babysit her little brother, in a little access hatch with a port looking out over most of the length of the ship. She couldn't see forward very well, which was just as well, since the journey in towards the sun meant that the increasing glare would soon make gazing in that direction uncomfortable, and she wouldn't be able to see any of the inner planets anyway. She did have a glorious, if diminishing, view of Saturn. But more importantly, she could spend hours watching the stars beyond this little system, wondering what might be found circling a thousand unspeakably distant fireballs glittering ice-blue in the seeming nearness of the void.

She had to slip away unnoticed to find her favourite spot, since her mother was apt to encourage her to "try to be more friendly" with the other children her age, all of whom struck her as loud, violent, and obnoxious, or else to set her watching her brother while her mother went out on one of her interminable meetings. Her father spent most of his time in his study, writing another book on the glories of travelling in the space he seldom took the time to see. More critically, the crew didn't like passengers to spend time too close to the hull, except in the observation lounges, which she found too smelly and noisy, especially with the most ignorant tourists being "certain" that every new fleck of light was either Earth or an uncharted planet. No, she much preferred her own little corner, although she was certain that any crew member who found her would have her grounded, especially since she shut the inner door of the airlock to keep the light from the passageway from reflecting off the glass of the port.

One day, after dinner, she was staring out into space, luxuriating in the cool dimness of her hideout from the noise and brightness of the rest of the ship. She heard the inner door lock and seal itself, just as the emergency light came on in the hatch. Thinking somebody had caught her and was playing a prank on her, she reached to unlock it, but before she could put her hand on the switch, there was a tremendous concussion. The emergency light faded out, and she blacked out with it.

* * *

In cosmic terms, he was tiny. Barely big enough to generate a measurable gravitational field. In all the vast depths of space, he was as tiny as a speck of dust, or maybe a microbe. Actually a microbe would be a good comparison, since he was living. Nobody ever told him that it was impossible for any creature to live without making use of carbon-based molecules, or air, or water, so he went on living without giving it much thought. He didn't know much about energy conversion or storage, but he did know it felt good to hang around a nice, hot star once in a while.

Nobody had ever told him about Einstein either, or the speed of light or relativity, or why he couldn't possibly travel faster than the speed of light without breaking the laws of physics. So he just went where he wanted at whatever speed he wanted, and he never looked out for traffic cops or radar. As a matter of fact, he wasn't looking out for much of anything at the moment, just cavorting around at twice the speed of light near this nice, hot, yellow dwarf he had just found. At least, he wasn't looking out enough. He was almost upon this odd, hollow metal shell which seemed to resonate with hundreds of intelligences before he noticed it. Even though nobody had told him about inertia either, it did take him a second or two to slow down to examine it. After all, even an intelligent five kilometre asteroid needs a little room to manoeuvre.

As it turned out, that was just a fraction of a second too long. Just as he realized that he was going to give the little shell a gentle nudge, it seemed to emanate panic. And then when he touched it, it suddenly popped open and gas seeped out. And all the intelligences faded out. He was heartbroken. Never in his billion year lifetime had he found another mind. He had seen many amazing things, and even suspected that somewhere, somehow, there was a mind like his, which he was supposed to find. But he had found only clues. Now he felt like his carelessness had ruined his chances forever.

Desperately, he searched through the little shell for a sign of the lost minds. He found all kinds of interesting things; elements in strange proportions, like iron and copper and aluminum, and some oxygen, and hydrogen, and carbon in all kinds of combinations. He found some strange devices too. Some which were almost like minds, and which seemed to be very angry with him. Others which seemed to do nothing but recombine oxygen, carbon and hydrogen in very specific ways. He played with these for a while, and while he admired the ingenuity with which they did their tasks, he could not find out the purpose of those tasks.

The mindlike devices were even more curious, many of them told him they were waiting for instructions from their users, but did not know where their users were or what was keeping them, although they admitted that users did seem to be slow in making up their minds most of the time. Others told him that an intruder had destroyed the "ship", which seemed to mean the little shell. He looked around nervously for an intruder waiting to destroy him, too. Until he realized that his gentle nudge had not seemed gentle to the little shell. He experienced a new feeling to him; guilt. It came over him in horrible waves. He knew he could not undo the damage he had caused to the devices' users, and he felt so badly about it that he had nearly decided to plunge into the nearby star and immolate himself when he felt a stirring from one of the little minds.

* * *

Connie woke to dark silence. The by now familiar hum of machinery no longer mixed with the buzz of distant conversation. She tried opening the inner door of the hatch, but nothing happened, since the power was out, and not even the indicator lights were working properly. At least, they couldn't be working, since they showed no air inside the ship. She remembered one of the crew members boasting of the Waikiki's radar systems and dust shield. "Nothing could possibly get through the hull of this ship," he said. Whoever had locked her in the hatch was having a fine game of it. She couldn't figure out how any of her agemates could figure out how to bypass the power to the emergency lights, or the door controls, so she decided that it must be one of the crew.

Well, she wasn't about to go pounding on the door or flying into a panic. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction. She was curious, though, about what had caused the sudden lurch in the ship, so she peered out the port to see what she could find out. The sight horrified her. As far as she could see the hull of the ship, it was warped and twisted. Seams had sprung all along the length of the hull. The blinking navigation lights were ominously dark. Suddenly, the significance of the indicators on the inner door of the hatch dawned on her. The only air she had was that in the hatch itself. She sat down and began to shake. Her parents, the crew, her brother, the other children, even the adult tourists, all...

Suddenly, she began to pound the walls. "No! It can't be!" She leaned back her head and screamed at the universe. Finally she collapsed, sobbing to the floor, her protests ringing back at her from the bare walls. Then, a new noise joined the fading echoes. It took several minutes to notice the recommencement of a noise which had been with her so long that it became just another unnoticed element in her environment, like the sound of her own breathing. Finally, she noticed its incongruity. The quiet rustle of the air vents didn't make sense in a shattered ship. She put her hand of the inlet. It was real! The air wasn't just leaking out, but fresh air was coming in! Feverishly, she pawed the intercom switch. Some of the crew must have survived! They had at least some of the life support systems running! If only she could attract their attention, they could come and get her out of her suddenly constrictive cubicle, and tell her what had happened.

But she could raise no-one on the intercom. She buzzed every number she knew, and began guessing at the rest. She couldn't find a soul anywhere in the ship. Eventually, she gave up and sat down again. She was just beginning to drop off from sheer nervous exhaustion when the intercom crackled and a tinny, mechanical-sounding voice said slowly, "Your attention please, Ladies and Gentlemen."

* * *

The little mind, he found, was inhabiting a little carbon-based form hidden in a small space from which the gas had not yet escaped. He concluded that the gas was something necessary to keeping the mind alive. That explained all the devices which kept the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen in the gas at specific levels. He could sense, even as he observed, that the level of oxygen was going down, and the carbon dioxide was increasing. As the little mind became more active, the rate of change increased. Quickly, he began to reroute the gas devices which still worked so that they could keep the space they way it was supposed to be.

He also found out what had happened to the rest of the minds. The carbon-based forms which were in areas from which the gas had escaped were all distorted and growing cold. Many of them were near some of the mind-devices which were so patiently waiting for instructions. Obviously, the minds used the carbon forms to operate, and to communicate with the devices. Apparently, they could not communicate with the devices directly. He spent some time going through the information storage of the mind devices, finding out the ways in which the devices communicated with the mind-forms, so that he could communicate with the mind-form which still operated. There was one form of communication which, although it was difficult for the devices to achieve, seemed to reach the most minds. That was to make waves in the gas in a certain manner, and then decode the waves that the mind- forms made. He chose what seemed to be the most common way of beginning the process.

"Your attention please, Ladies and Gentlemen."

Connie lunged at the intercom. "Hello? Can you hear me? Is anybody there?"

He quickly scanned through the information storage and answered her desperate cries as best he could. "Hello. I can hear you. I am here."

"Oh thank God. I thought everybody was dead. Who are you? Where are you?" She clutched at the intercom as if whoever was at the other end would fade away again if she let go of it.

"Dead?" He paused to search for the information he needed. "Everybody is dead except you. I am outside the ship."

An awful possibility began to intrude upon her mind. It was possible that one of the crew could have been working outside the ship in a vacuum suit when the accident happened, but it could be that this wasn't one of the crew at all. She began to wonder if there might be some kind of space pirates or something after the ship's cargo and the passenger's valuables. "Who are you? Where are you? What happened? Answer me!"

"I do not have a name. I have never needed one before because... there was never anyone else to use it. I am outside your ship, and when I ran into it, it popped open. All of your companions died when the... air ran out." After he said this, she made some kind of noise which he could not decode. It went on for quite a while. A mind-device in the section of the ship for very small mind-forms called it "crying." She would not answer anything he tried to say until finally he asked, "Who are you?"

She stopped, and looked at the intercom. "What do you care, you murderer!"

* * *

He searched through the information storage. "Murderer? Is that who I am?" He began to look through a different set of information, and didn't like what he found out. He was right. He had done a terrible thing when he bumped carelessly into the little shell. He had killed hundreds of mind-forms, people, users, minds. They would never be what they were again. He found a section on what should be done to murderers. Then he asked the little one, "Hello, can you tell me where the nearest police station is?"

She sniffed, still a little shocked at her own outburst. "What?"

"A police station. Where is the nearest one? I don't see anything at all nearby." Some of the information in the banks was a little confusing. It seemed to indicate that police stations and other institutions were quite common, yet he knew from his own wanderings that most of the galaxy was quite empty.

"Well, of course not. The nearest police are on Earth. You must know that! And why do you need police, anyway? I'm the one who's in trouble here!" This was beginning to be a very strange conversation, even for as catastrophic a day as this. But then again, maybe strange conversations were normal on strange days.

"I must turn myself in to them as a murderer. What is Earth, please, and where is it?"

"You don't know where Earth is? Aren't you from there?" She was right, this was definitely a strange conversation. Possibly the strangest in human history.

"No, I don't think I have ever seen it. What is it like?" Try as he would, he could not make sense of the descriptions of Earth in the information storage. Earth seemed to be a large flat place with gas for the mindforms to breathe, but he knew that he had never seen anything like that anywhere he had been. The navigation devices were no help. Since they were designed to find out where the ship was in relation to Earth, they could not possibly help him find Earth in relation to anything else.

"You aren't from Earth?" Could she believe what she was hearing?

He was puzzled. "I have said that."

"Where are you from?"

"I have always been somewhere, but never here before. I come from a lot of places." He could not think of a time when he had not been as he was now.

"Are you from another planet?"

"No. I cannot go too close to planets. They might pull me apart."

"Wait a minute. Let me see you and talk to you."

"You cannot see me?" He couldn't understand how the little one could not see him when he could see her so well.

"Of course not. Come around to where I can see you out the window of this airlock. I can't see through metal walls, you know." She heard groaning metal beneath her, and the ship shook as if it were breaking apart. Suddenly, a huge asteroid began to come into view behind the twisted wreckage. "Oh-oh, look out! There's an asteroid loose out there!"

"That is me."

"What? You mean you live in that huge thing?" The asteroid seemed to grow ever larger as more of it came into view.

"No, I mean this is me. This is how I look."

* * *

Connie sat down and started to think things out. If she heard what she thought she heard, and her mind wasn't just playing strange tricks on her, she'd just been talking to a rock. Not only that, but this talking rock came from outside the solar system. She tried to think of some of the articles she had read about the possibility of silicon-based life forms. As far as she had been able to determine, the basic conclusion was that they could not exist outside of science fiction stories. Impossibility number one. She also realized that she hadn't seen anything like rocket flares or vanes or anything that might suggest a means by which this rock propelled itself through space. It couldn't move without some kind of propulsion. Impossibility number two. Then too, how could it have come close enough to the ship to collide without setting off any of the anticollision radar alarms? Impossibility number three. And, if it didn't come from Earth, or even know where it was, how could it speak English? Impossibility number... no. If she kept adding them up, she'd go crazy before she found any answers. What she really needed to do was get some sleep so she could figure out what was going on. But who'd want to sleep in an airlock?

She looked out the port again. "Hello? Are you still there?"

The voice came from the little intercom behind her. "I am here. I will not leave until I have done what I need to do."

Oh, yes, he wanted to turn himself in. She'd have to do something about that to make him feel better, at least for now. "Well, I'll tell you what. I'll make a citizen's arrest for now, until we find a police station."

He searched through the information in the mind devices. "A citizen's arrest? Very well, until we find some police. What must I do now?"

"Well, uh. I can't go back to earth like this. For one thing I'll need to get some food or else I'll starve to death. For another thing, I need to get some sleep. Did you fix the air conditioning? Can you fix the rest of the ship the way it was?"

"It would take much time. Which must be done first?"

It did take some time. Neither of them knew enough about the structure of the Waikiki to know how to return her to fully operational condition, let alone run her once they got her that way. But Connie decided that they should at least give her a few cabins and a kitchen unit in working order so she could survive the trip home. They also got the bridge liveable, so she could try to figure out the way home, and call for the police once they got there, although she began to wonder how anyone could arrest anything his size, or even why they should, since it hardly seemed fair to call the accident murder when he didn't even know there were such things as human beings until after it happened. But, for some reason, he seemed less upset when she told him that dire punishment awaited him than when she tried to tell him it was okay, so she kept those thoughts to herself. He didn't understand when she told him to put the bodies in one place and keep them below freezing, either. How could he understand how death affected people? He had never encountered another intelligence than himself. Death was something new and interesting, not old and painful.

Finally, after she'd had a good sleep and something to eat, they started to talk about finding Earth. "Do you know the speed and direction of the ship when you hit it?"

"Was it moving? I thought it was staying in one place!"

"Staying in one place? This ship can do nearly one-thousandth the speed of light! It's just about the fastest thing ever built!" She shook her head with amusement that he could have been so absent minded as not to notice the ship's great speed.

"Oh, I see. I just didn't notice. I usually go much faster than that."

"Oh yeah? Just how fast can you go then?"

"I'm not sure, but at the time I hit you, I was going at twice the speed of light."

Connie stared at the intercom. "You're kidding!" But of course he wasn't. That explained what happened to the radar. By the time his reflections got back, he was already here. "Well, head in towards the sun, but more slowly. Like about one hundredth the speed of light. You don't want this to happen again, and there are more ships closer in."

And then, ever so slowly, he surged towards the sun ten times faster than any human had ever gone.

* * *

In human terms, she was tiny. She was also nearly 75 years old, but still spry as ever. That was what he liked about her. There were larger freighters, but none of the new fusion boats were quite so maneuverable as his old Humdulla. She was an Aerospatiale TE-7, more affectionately known as a Wheelbarrow, although she looked more like a slightly pregnant wheel. Originally designed during the first period of commercially viable lunar mining, the TE-7 was built as a bulk ore freighter to lift from the moon's surface to lunar orbit, where deep space freighters could transfer the ore to orbiting processing plants. But their large capacity (for the time), robust build, and maneuverability made them immensely popular with mining companies, and later on with asteroid prospectors. In fact, like the DC-3 a century before, the Wheelbarrow had become the standard vehicle for freight hauling throughout the solar system. Of course, newer freight designs had come along, and the slowly diminishing ranks of Wheelbarrows had been pushed to the fringes of trade, or been forced to adapt to other roles. He had even heard of one old Wheelbarrow that had been fitted out with passenger compartments and armoured windows to take tourists out to see the remains of the first American Space Station. One relic giving tours of another.

In human terms, he was huge, exactly two metres tall, and massing 140 kilograms. He was also a bit of a relic himself, not quite as old as his beloved Humdulla, but he seemed to have more salt than pepper in his beard these days, and his hairline had receded beyond the point where it was beneath his dignity to try combing the remnants of his once luxurious locks over his now polished pate. Nevertheless, despite his age, or perhaps because of it, he was a bit of a rebel, always trying to find some way to shake up the establishment. Like his present project. The hold of his Wheelbarrow was mostly filled with books and disks, with only a grudging allowance for mere details like food, water, or oxygen, let alone a complete wardrobe. He was on his way to the colonies around Saturn, to preach and attempt to establish churches. The leaders of his denomination back home had been sceptical of the chances of establishing any permanent work among such hard- living types, but had grudgingly approved his mission, probably as much to get him out of their hair as for any hope of success.

But, Soulez Abdou was a determined man, and he was also a man with a goal, and that goal was that, wherever there was no church, he would go and preach the gospel. Of course, now that the church was growing so quickly in Europe and North America, there weren't many places left on Earth for a cross-cultural missionary to think about starting a new work, so he had turned his eyes outward. Come to think of it, it was time to turn his eyes outward now, because the asteroid radar was sounding. The Humdulla had been used for asteroid mining before he had refitted her, but he had left her detection gear intact. Although it was far more elaborate than he needed – since it was designed, not only to avoid collisions, but to match orbits with rich-looking prospects – it would have been more expensive to dig up a smaller, less capable unit, than to leave it aboard. Now, it seemed he had inadvertently left the controls in approach mode, since the Humdulla was matching orbits with a particularly large asteroid right now. No, check that. Soulez realized with a shock that the asteroid was matching speeds with her.

* * *

They hadn't gone very far before, by watching much more carefully, he noticed another little shell, much smaller than the first he had found, but basically the same kind of thing: an outer shell of metal with gas inside. Best of all, this one also had a living mindform, slightly larger than the little one called Connie. "I have found another ship," he announced.

She ran to the bridge. "Get a little closer, but don't hit this one. Stay about your own diameter away or you'll scare them out of their wits. Now let me see if this radio still works..." She sat down in front of the communications console, and experimented with the controls. She had been trying to learn them for the past three days, but still didn't feel too sure of herself. Finally, when she was pretty sure she was transmitting or something, she put on the headphones and said. "Hello? Mayday, mayday. Can you read me? Over." That sounded sort of professional, so she changed to a different frequency and tried again.

Suddenly, after a dozen different frequencies, a voice, sounding wondering and confused, answered back, "I read you. Where on Earth are you transmitting from? What's going on here?"

Clutching at the edge of the console, she almost shouted with relief, "I'm calling from the bridge of the Spirit of Waikiki, it's had a collision with this asteroid and I'm stuck here!"

The voice got even more bewildered sounding. "But how...? It's..." And then the silence grew so long she was beginning to think she'd lost contact when she heard a long, low whistle. "Oh, Lord. That was some collision. Your ship's almost buried. Hang on. I'll come and get you. Can you turn the access lights on at a working airlock?" She told him she'd try, and ran back to her old haunt. The lights flicked on, and she ran back to ask if he could see them. "Yeah, I see them. I'll be there in a few minutes."

Actually, it took closer to half an hour before she heard the dull clank of the docking pins locking closed outside the airlock. She waited, almost dancing with urgency, for the airlock to open. When it did, she was about to rush to the figure behind the door, when she noticed his size, and suddenly became very quiet.

* * *

Soulez got Connie fed and washed and bundled into bed. She had been running on sheer nerves for hours. Then he sat for a while and pondered over some of the things she had said. One of the things that especially puzzled him was her concern over the asteroid's wish to be arrested. Aside from the impossibility of caging something which was five kilometres across, what would be the point? What use would solitary confinement be to a being which had never known anything but solitude? Or, thinking the unthinkable, what use would the death of the asteroid serve except a primal need for revenge?

On the other hand, it almost seemed that it felt guilty for what it had done. Nothing he knew of would explain its persistence in following what could only be the most abstract of concepts to it. He thought for a bit more. If it felt guilty, it had at least some kind of moral sense. This could be a very important incident. It could be the first time mankind had encountered another creature with intelligence and moral responsibility, but without sharing man's own fall and redemption- necessarily.

He would have to talk with this creature for himself. He knew he wasn't the best person for the job. His theology was more practical than theoretical, and he suspected that any theological conclusions he made would be subjected to intense scrutiny. "But," he told himself, "the most important ability is availability. And I'm not heading all the way back to earth just to get the opinion of some Systematic Theology professor."

He turned to his computer console and tapped into his library section. Then he had it imprint the English text of the Bible onto a memory wafer. Since the little girl only knew English, it made sense to think the creature would be able to understand it if it understood her. He took the wafer out of its slot and headed for the airlock. Stooping to clear the hatch, he emerged into the remains of the Spirit of Waikiki and headed for the bridge. Once there, he sat in front of the control console and keyed the intercom. "Hello? Can you hear me?"

The intercom hummed to life. "Yes, I can hear you. Who are you?"

"My name is Soulez. I want to talk to you about what happened. Connie tells me you want to see the police. Why is that?"

"According to the thinking machines, the police have to arrest murderers. I am a murderer."

"Why do think that?" Soulez asked.

It replied with an air of finality, "That is what the little one called me."

"Check the computers again. How is murder defined?"

There was a pause. "To kill a human being unlawfully with malice aforethought."

Soulez felt a wave of relief. Now was his chance. "Did you kill human beings?"

"Yes. One thousand, four hundred and..."

Soulez cut it off. "Was it lawful?"

"No. There was no process of law involved."

He leaned forward and spoke more slowly. "Was there malice aforethought?"

There was another pause. "I have the definition of malice, although I do not understand how one can wish to cause harm. I had no intention beforehand, I was not aware of their existence until afterwards."

Soulez spoke up, firmly and clearly. "Then I put it to you that, by definition, you are not a murderer. There was no malice aforethought."

"That would seem to be true, but why did the little one call me that?"

"She did not know that you were not aware of their existence. She thought you did it deliberately."

"That would be very wrong. No thinking being should do that." It said with a tinge of regret.

"That's true. However, you did not do it deliberately." Soulez waited. He thought he was doing the right thing, but he wouldn't know until he learned more.

The intercom sounded again. "But I still have a problem."

* * *

The larger human had made some things clearer for him, but he knew something was still not right. "Even if I am not a murderer, I still did wrong. I caused those people to die."

"That's true." the man replied. "But you did not murder them. You didn't even know they were there."

"True. But my carelessness caused their deaths. That is wrong."

"But you do understand the distinction between killing and murder." the man insisted. "I need that to go on."

"Very well." he said. "I killed, but I did not murder."

"Good so far." said the man. "Now I want to suggest to you that doing something that is wrong causes problems even when it is not against the law."

"I know." he replied miserably. "When I found out that the people had died because of my carelessness, I felt bad in a way I have never felt before."

"Never?"

"Never. I have never done a wrong thing before. How could I? There was no one to hurt?"

There was a long pause. Then the man spoke slowly. "What you felt was guilt. That is what happens when one sins."

He search the memory banks. "What is sin? I cannot find the word in these files."

The man laughed. "Somehow, I didn't think you would. Here, scan the information in this wafer." He put it into a slot in the console.

The information was amazing. It was nothing like the other files he had seen. It was confusing in many ways, yet somehow it seemed... deeper. He spoke when it was finished. "What is this?"

"That is an account of the dealings my people have had with God."

"This God is supposed to have created all the Universe, and your people?"

"Yes."

"And me?"

"Right."

"Why have I never met Him?"

"I suspect it's because you never knew quite where to look."

He put that aside for a moment. "What does it have to do with me?"

"Right at the beginning, there is an account of how people began to sin." said the human. "What I think is that you have just sinned for the first time. Now do you know what sin is?"

"It is doing something against the will of God." he replied.

"Right. What I think is that up until know, you have done right, because what pleased you, pleased God. But now you have sinned. The question is what you will do about it. What did the first people do when they sinned?"

"They tried to avoid the responsibility." That much, at least, was clear.

"Very good. Now, in light of what came later, what should they have done right in the beginning?"

He thought for a minute, then reviewed the information again. "Ask God for forgiveness."

"You can do the same. You could ask God for forgiveness."

"Does it not say that this Jesus died for all mankind? I am not part of mankind."

"That's true. But you have not sinned in the same way as mankind, so you may not need to be reconciled to God in the same fashion." The human stood up. "Ask Him for forgiveness. He will hear, and He may answer, but I know He will forgive if only you ask. How He does is up to Him." Then he left.

He thought over what the human had said for a long time. Then at last he spoke.

* * *

Connie was waiting for him when he got back to the Humdullah. "I heard you talking to him. What did you say?"

"I read him the Bible."

"What? I thought that was all just fairy tales!"

He smiled. "Somehow, I thought you would. My job is not finished yet."

"No, really. You mean you told him about Adam and Eve and stuff?"

"That's right. Do you know what the story of Adam and Eve is all about?"

"Well, yeah. It's got something to do with an apple and sin and stuff like that."

"Close enough," he said. "We call it the Fall. That is where mankind first broke God's law, and tried to hide it from Him instead of asking forgiveness right away. I figured if he asked forgiveness, God would forgive him, too."

"You mean you tried to make him a Christian?"

"Not exactly. The Bible says there is no other name by which men can be saved, but it doesn't say anything about rocks. I think it's just possible for your friend to have sinned without falling."

Just then Connie jumped as the intercom at the console let out a yell of jubilation. "It worked! He forgave me and gave me a new name! I am Pilgrim!" Then the ship rocked and there was the sound of metal on stone.

Connie jumped to the port. Instead of the now-familiar outlines of the asteroid, the was just the cold metal of the Spirit of Waikiki. "He's gone! Where did he go?"

"Into the desert of Arabia for seven years." Soulez breathed.

"What?!"

"Oh, just a thought. I suspect he's probably starting his pilgrimage. We'll see him again someday. But first, I'd like to read you something."

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