Most were silent in the afternoon. The food vendors were functioning and well stocked, so there were no worries there. Lars and Ali Pasha received their nano-chits by injection, but Jill opted to put her teaching off until the morning.
“They need the time to make the adjustment,” she said, but it sounded like an excuse.
She admitted that she was too upset to teach, and no one argued with her. Colonel deMartin spent the afternoon in quiet contemplation. He considered his family’s “Long and distinguished military service,” as he put it. Manomar simply stayed quiet. He found a block of wood and spent the day until dusk, carving with his long knife. Even Ali Pasha’s passion for new things seemed blunted as he struggled to imagine what it must have been like. Peter Alexander spent most of the time in the hospital chapel in what he called a Cherokee custom of remembering the dead.
Ethan avoided Jill, which did not help matters with either of them. They needed each other, but Ethan was feeling used and he could not shake the feeling. When the evening hours signaled that it was time for bed, Ethan felt a little surprised to find Jill in his room.
“You don’t have to pretend to be my wife in this world,” he said.
“I don’t want to pretend.” She sounded honest enough. Ethan smiled, but in his heart, he doubted. He imagined he was just another selection, another Guardian, and having thought about it all afternoon, he decided that he was willing to guard his home world, whatever that meant. As for Jill, he imagined that she would move on soon enough and leave him to his world and his work. He curled up with her that night, but he talked about other things.
“So, do we have any allies in this work?” he asked.
“Yes and no,” she answered. “Last I knew we had only found four groups that had been world hopping longer than ourselves, and only two whose technology might be called superior. None of them are concerned one way or the other, and we are only glad that we have not run into a troubling group with better technology than our own. Three other groups are enthusiastic about the idea of guarding the worlds from external intrusion, but two can do little to nothing about it. One, in particular, really stumbled on transitional technology before they were capable of handling it. In one world, the technology itself has become a hotly divided political issue. There are others, but to be honest, most worlds are self-committed. Do you know what I mean? The ones that we stand against and worry about would be just as quick to fight each other as fight us.”
“It sounds like everyone is just into themselves,” Ethan said, as he had another thought. “So how many think they are the only real world and everyone else is sort of a poor photocopy.”
“There are a few that think that way,” Jill said.
“But basically, everyone is parochial to the extreme.”
“Yes and no.” Jill repeated the phrase. “There really are only two options for the worlds. One is not to interfere with other worlds in any way. There are some who explore and visit, but bend over backwards to leave no imprint. The ones ruling my Earth, at this time, feel that is the way we should be.”
“You don’t agree?”
“No, of course not. Given some of the groups already traveling across the dimensions, sticking your head in the sand is not an option. Isolationism will not work because no one has figured out how to keep others out of your own world. Eventually, the bad guys will catch up with you.”
“But you said two options.” Ethan yawned.
“Well, the other option seems to be to exploit the worlds. Some seek better technologies. One steals art and artifacts. Some seek to control, even enslave other Earths.”
“That’s where you draw the line.” Ethan suggested.
“I don’t like exploitation of any kind,” Jill responded honestly. “But if we don’t stand up and help worlds like the ones that Lars, Ali Pasha and Alexander come from, they will soon be under someone’s thumb. Wouldn’t it be a big surprise to the rulers if suddenly all of the Muslims in Ali Pasha’s world became slaves to grow food for the Megaron, or if Colonel deMartin suddenly had to defend his Christian world from a highly advanced Islamic Jihad?”
“I see,” Ethan said and yawned. He did see, but his doubts about Jill’s intentions and their relationship in general was clouding all of his other thoughts. “So what is with those Neanderthal? That is what they are, isn’t it?”
“Oh.” Jill spoke softly. “Yes, they are, and they style themselves as a sort of dimensional police. They do not like the transfer of any technology, as if keeping it out of certain hands is going to prevent them from developing it themselves once they know it is possible. On the positive side, they have agreed with our seeding the worlds against the advent of the Chernobyl, and they have even turned a blind eye to our establishing Guardians for the worlds, as long as we select, or as they say, as long as we only corrupt one or two people. I think the Guardians are different for them and they can accept it because we are giving our technology away in a strictly limited sense rather than someone trying to take it. For the most part, though, they are against the importing and exporting of technologies across the dimensions.”
Ethan was quiet. “By the way, I rigged up an AC plug to recharge the laptop.” Ethan’s only response was a deep breath. He had fallen asleep. Jill looked long into his sleeping face and whispered. “What have I done to make you so unhappy?” She laid her head against his chest and soon enough, she also slept.
Jill and Ethan enter a difficult time. Jill needs to teach and Ethan needs to learn, but it is hard when feelings get in the way… Monday, Guardian Angel 11, Trouble in Paradise. Don’t miss it…