Almost Angels, Chapter 11
May 26th 2519, my birthday. I have had friends popping in all day with their best wishes. Now the afternoon sun is dropping behind the Rocky Mountains, as I recline in anti-grav lounger in my garden overlooking the great plains, stretching out to the east.
A slow moving air barge moves slowly up the front range at about 300 feet above ground. It is noiseless. Already, below it, the darkening landscape is broken only by the lights from drone-taxis, bringing home the tech-workers from Denver. The sun reflects off the cargo containers filled with necessities to provide the great city sustenance for a few more hours. There will be others to follow.
It set me to thinking though (what a Gemini does best, or at least most). It is so easy now with the anti-grav technology to move our goods where needed. Back through the centuries, it was mans greatest challenge. They either had to provide with their needs by making it themselves, or growing it themselves, or they had to have it brought to them.
In the early days of America where I had visited a number of times, I had noticed the ships on the docks, unloading goods from wherever they had sailed. Then the endless lines of carts and wagons, pulled by countless horses, mules and oxen. You would have had to have been there to have realized the stench from that energy source. I had watched the wagon trains behind the armies in both the Revolution and the Civil War. I witnessed and recorded General Bragg’s train as he retreated from Perryville, Kentucky in October of 1862. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was 50 miles long! The first wagons, had bivouacked three nights before the last wagons started. Amazing… how inefficient. Then came the river boats and then the trains over the years. Now we put them on a deck the size of a city block, catalog the locations of items, and float them wherever we need them. And they are unloaded robotically and dispersed by drones to their end address.
Tomorrow, when I return to work, I will document more on this subject. But for now, Misha has just stepped from her shower and my mind is suddenly else where.
Monday the 27th I stepped from my drone taxi in front of the Archive Center on Larimer Street. I looked up toward the top of the tall tower to glimpse the blue sky before I entered. Who knows what the weather would be like where I was going.
After briefing and morning checks, I told my chief what I had in mind. He thought it a good idea, and upon my return we would perhaps refine the editing and cataloging.
My first stop was Jerusalem 32 A.D. The great Roman Empire was occupying this desert world. How would they move their supplies, and what would they export to that world and what would they import to it? I dressed in a worn woolen robe, tied with a course belt. No one seemed to take notice of me on the crowded streets. Up ahead on a hill stood the Temple. I had to stop. There were no known paintings of it. I had to marvel at its splendor. Not large when compared to modern edifices, but majestic I think was the word. But what I wanted to see was market items, convoys of whatever kind. I walked to a corner of a broad street and turned left, when suddenly a Roman soldier stepped in front of me and said something that I totally did not understand. I speak neither Latin or Yiddish and had forgotten to turn on my translator. He made to grab me, and I stepped back, smiled and skipped an hour forward. Of course he was gone, and thoroughly confused, I’m sure. I found the market and walked slowly through, looking at the hundreds of items, many of which I was surprised to see. I recorded everything, including the smells. A new technology had just been developed that allowed us to do that. It was quite nice to be able to capture the smells of the past, in most cases, not all.
After leaving the market I decided to travel to the seacoast at Caesarea Maritima, a seacoast city built by Herod. Just as I turned to the west a group of men were approaching me, talking amongst themselves. I watched them. They were so animated in their conversations. They were talking with their hands, gesturing, walking backwards, gathered about the one young man who appeared to be either their leader or at least the center of their attentions. He was a bit taller than the others, well built, probably did hard labor to develop his shoulders and upper torso. He was dark complexioned, curly hair, a beard. As we came abreast of each other he stopped and looked intently at me. He seemed to study me, I could almost feel him in my head. Then he smiled, a warm smile, seemingly full of mirth, almost as if he knew me. He bowed slightly, turned and continued on his journey. I turned and watched him go. I knew instinctively who he was. I turned back to the west.
The road to Caesarea was to the northwest. I knew from my research it was about 75 miles. Too far for anyone to walk, a good two day ride by horse back, maybe a week with loaded pack animals and carts. Still, I wanted to see as much of it as possible. The only way to do that was too scroll through time. In other words, fast forward myself. I had never done this before, but the effect was extraordinary. I traveled at about 20 times a human’s normal rate of walk, excluding nighttime as I knew no one would be moving. At this rate I would be virtually invisible, and simply create a breeze in passing. I stopped from time to time to take note of convoys. It seemed everything going to Jerusalem was military. But large convoys were observed making their way to the port. Jars of wine, olive oil, oil lamps of clay, slaves and riches too numerous to mention. I spent a night of the local time in the desert. I didn’t sleep much but I was blown away by the night sky. In a world with little artificial light, the magnificence of the heavens was astounding. I made the trip in two days. I watched the ships being loaded. I confess I would not have wanted to journey out on the sea in one of those little tubs. Brave men, those 1st century seamen. The evidence of trade was there.
Now to skip ahead. Where to next?
Henderson, Kentucky, May 1819. A Steamboat lies along the shore of the Ohio River. It one of the first. As I stand watching, a crew of men run to the water, board the boat and quickly cast off into the river and head down stream. Shortly some more run to the river’s edge and look downstream, toward the already disappeared steamboat. It was John James Audubon. He had sold the boat, but was paid with worthless paper money. The buyer absconded with it anyway. The story is much longer, perhaps someone else can tell it in the future.
That was the early start to river-boating. Interestingly enough, when they loaded the boat to go back up river it didn’t have the power it needed to pull a load up stream.
I hung out on the river for several years, skipping through time, watching the American west spread down the rivers and cities spring up all up and down the Mississippi. Then, in 1862, the big steamboats took up the task of transporting the troops during the Civil War. Some of them were armored and became gunboats and fought fierce battles. But that is much too long a subject for this narrative.
Then the railroads took up the loads along with the boats, and the American west came alive. It seemed so quaint in comparison with my present day high tech logistics, with our interplanetary shipping techniques. Yet everything must have a beginning. Each thing a birth, a coming forth from need, oft-times accompanied by pain. Then the struggles of the first steps, then finally to run and take large bounds. When I logged back into my center, I had a good story, I thought. I wondered about that young man back in Judea. Could he have seen all this in my mind when we met? Is that why the smile? I will always wonder.