A Tale of Two Kingdoms(Black Swan 6)By: Victoria Danann
A Tale of Two Kingdoms
We’ve called them by hundreds of different names.
At times they’ve shown themselves to us as they are.
At times they’ve shown themselves in disguise.
We’ve used each other.
We’ve amused them, entertained them, and provided breaks in their boredom.
They’ve given us the illusion of reason, muse, purpose, or excuse.
In an exercise as old as the stars, the divinity class teacher told his charges to divide into teams of eight so that he might assign group projects. As it happened there were eighty-seven in the class. Eighty of those responded with the excitement that would be expected from an opportunity to work in committee structure with their friends. They chatted animatedly, drawn to each other as if they were made of magnets. Appearing to be in a state of delight nearing euphoria, they began naming their teams and composing team cheers while they awaited further instructions.
Beneath the commotion, inaudible but nonetheless present, were the groans and anxious stomach rumbles of the remaining seven who would rather take a millennium’s detention than participate in a group project. When the huddles were completely formed, those seven looked around to see who was left and gradually, grudgingly, began to drift toward one another.
Dr. Pierce quietly observed, looking down from a raised platform and a condescending attitude. He knew the process of group project assignation was painful for the socially vulnerable, but it wouldn’t do for him to recognize that he enjoyed that. No, indeed. He viewed it with clinical dispassion, thinking it almost resembled a dance. Some were adept and some were not.
He was one of the first beings ever created and looked it. Though he had managed eternal survival physically, he’d discovered the truth of the Peter Principle rather early in his career and had, thereafter, become known for his bitterness expressed at times in biting wit and often misdirected at powerless students.
He watched the progress of the formation of the eleventh, odd number group, with some distaste. He resented the fact that his instructions were being delayed by the slowness with which they came together. He resented the fact that they were such ne’er-do-well loser misfits that they had forced him, in his own mind, to have already given them a failing grade on the project before they had even heard the assignment. Because of that he was already formulating a plan to give them the subject with the least likely chance of succeeding - the realms of Earth.
It wasn’t intended as a punishment. Exactly. It was more an anti-reward.
The seven sat down at a corner conference table, eyeing each other cautiously, waiting to hear sentence pronounced – that being how long they would be stuck working together on a group project. None of them knew each other well enough to be labeled so much as acquaintances. Of course they’d seen each other around, but had never had either occasion or desire to interact on any level.
Still young and inexperienced in the grander scheme of things, they were aeons old, a concept unimaginable by lesser minds. They were a motley crew, beautiful for their oddities, pure in their extremes, comical in their eccentricities, but all of that could only be appreciated if viewed through a prism of generosity. And the absence of that was one of the essentials that had held Dr. Pierce back from a more illustrious and transcendent career.
Pierce restored quiet to the space by holding up his hands in a gesture of authority that was a tad grander than required for the event, but the preferred pupils were wily about their surreptitious jests at his expense. Pierce’s assistant passed out the parameters of the assignment.
Every team would be given a world with a starter complement of elementals, flora, fauna… the usual. The common Hominin prototype was to be used to populate at least a portion of the dimensions. The more humans, the greater the points. The experiment would be judged as a whole, but each student would be encouraged to pursue an individual “hobby” project, which could result in extra credit.
As the students looked over the outline of the assignment, Dr. Pierce drifted down from his platform, holding eleven tablets. Each tablet held the name of the team’s destination where they would be spending the next several thousand years together.