Five Grown Men and a Kerosene Heater

The building, the structure, the edifice, the architectural cure for the disorder of nature…

A tree stood.

So did love.

Xonvart Niis and Anika Gnomima stood at the base of the tree and looked up.

Trees on Mars were unlike any seen on Earth — their growth was accomplished through a series of nanobots harvesting solar power and converting local Martian soil into building material, weaving links of molecules together like vines growing upward, their tendrils wrapping around other “vines,” creating flexible pole-like trees.

Xonvart and Anika hadn’t visited this part of the planet for thousands of sols, stopping by now because of satellite imagery which showed a sudden increase in construction activity.

Construction on Mars was coordinated through a distribution network monitored closely by the ISSANet, ensuring that optimisation algorithms functioned at full capacity by keeping all citizens busy but content, giving those who needed it a sense of purpose and those who didn’t a space to call their own.

Xonvart and Anika had long ago learned how to separate themselves from the ISSANet, trailblazing ideas for the advancement of Quantumite understanding.

The ISSANet claimed to be a true self, which meant it had selfish tendencies.  It tended to think that all activities of the Inner Solar System were directed toward its wellbeing, purposely programmed not to be suspicious or paranoid about activities that conflicted with its self-centeredness.

The “treehouse” that Xonvart and Anika were looking at was something they had never seen before.

Because they had created two sets of circuitry, they could, 1) see themselves as well as others in their place in the ISSANet, and 2) communicate through their Quantumite connections with other Quantumites.

The beings working on the treehouse looked like Quantumites they knew but weren’t ISSANet or Quantumite connected.

That meant they weren’t regular clones.

Rumours on the ISSANet spread frequently about remote pockets of resistance fighters — clones trying to establish independent colonies — that the ISSANet calmly worked to convert to friendly citizens.

To Xonvart and Anika, the workers on the treehouse didn’t appear to be resistance fighters at all, completely ignoring two Quantumites staring up at them.

Body scanners revealed the contents of the treehouse but not of the workers.

It was as if the workers weren’t there.

Hologram detectors in Xonvart’s clothing registered nothing.

The treehouse workers were visible yet invisible.  They appeared to be five grown human men gathered next to a kerosene heater.

Could this be the famed fluctuation in the timespace continuum Xonvart and Anika had been looking for?

If so, then everything they hoped for was in one spot.

It would prove their own existence as Quantumites, showing that time and space were the illusions they knew them for.

Rationally and emotionally, it made sense.  Love, hope, religion — it was all in one.  If time and space are illusions, then love never dies, hope always lives and religion is a tree that hosts an ecosystem which regenerates itself indefinitely.


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