As I was still an Apprentice, I had many daily duties before I went to work with Grimes, including refuse collection and bringing in food from the fields. My usual pattern was to wake in the morning and gather my assigned bins, put them on the cart and wheel the cart out to the composting area. The Materials-Compost would enter that I had done my assigned tasking and at what time in the datapad; then an Apprentice-Materials would collect the bins from the cart. I would then take the cart over to the harvesting area and collect the requisite load of bins with the grain or whatever the Materials-Produce were growing, and more annotations would be made on another datapad. I would then return the cart, now loaded with bins. Normally I would hand over the bins, with cart, to a Materials-Food at the galley, but this morning M-A Abenthy was waiting for me.
“Right on time, just like Grimes said you’d be.” said Abenthy.
“Good morning, M-A Abenthy” I responded as I pushed the cart into the loading bay.
Abenthy counted the bins, looked at the readout from the loading bay and annotated on the datapad; my morning routine was now complete. His over-large nose seemed to have been from birth designed to hold the heavy-rimmed spectacles that he now wore. He had deep-set eyes, and his knobbed hands were nearly covered with calluses that showed his original specialty: Materials-Produce, he had been a farmer.
Abenthy was an affable, simple man. But he had an eye for detail. He was no-nonsense and had no time for anything or anyone that wasn’t pulling their weight. If a cart on his farm started pulling to the right, he would have parted out for the other carts. “No point in trying to fix something that might break in the future” he’d say.
“Grimes tells me you are leaning toward Engineer-Security. Is this true?” asked Abenthy.
“Hmmm…walk with me.”
I followed along as Abenthy turned and gestured to the M-P that would usually have handled my cart-load of produce – evidently he had been waiting for me.
“Grimes says that you have been speaking of doing something creative,” said Abenthy as he looked back over his shoulder.
I felt my blood run cold, had Abenthy always been so tall? I remember that he had always been taller than me, but as I was nearly an adult most of the adults were almost eye-level with me, but now Abenthy was looking down at me. I said nothing. Abenthy clucked his teeth and shook his head. The contract between the settlers and the corporation said that we had to produce, so all of us knew our part. We had been brought up to think like a part of the community. Anything that was a thought outside of the community wasn’t a good thing and could cause problems.
Abenthy turned towards where D-A Montero’s office was. I followed though I felt my steps starting to slow; with each one my future was slipping away. Why had Grimes told anyone? All I could think was, “What had Grimes told them?” Several paces before the final turn to go to the S-A’s office, Abenthy abruptly turned down a short corridor that lead to the vehicle maintenance division. We entered through a rear door of the maintenance shop, and Abenthy walked up to one of the four-seat vehicles sitting in its bay with the rolling door already open – there was no maintenance personnel here.
“Get in.” he said.
I climbed into the side seat and clipped myself into the harness. M-A Abenthy held his left hand to the empty panel in front of him, and it began to light up. The center panel showed a much younger picture of M-A Abenthy, as well as his name and a control wheel unfolded from the once-empty space where his hand had been. He clipped himself into his harness and took the vehicle from the bay as if he owned it.
“Grimes tells me that you have shown great promise,” said Abenthy over the throb of the engine. “He also says that you are not content with the education that you received. That you want to try and do things a different way from what the computer says.”
I just sat trying to not look too guilty, feeling very scared.
“I will guess that from your silence that it’s all true, very well. Then I must show you what happens when these types of thoughts start to turn up in minds such as yours.”
We rolled out of the main gates and out into the familiar fields from which I had just returned. I felt tears, hot on my cheek; were they going to exile me? All for wanting to design a better valve? How could that be a detriment to the community? If anything I wanted to design the valve so that we wouldn’t have to keep rebuilding the thing. I could feel myself getting more and more angry. Abenthy went silent, and we just drove, past the composting areas, past the security outposts; where were we going? We went to the end of the road that had been cut by the Engineer-Scouts and Abenthy stopped the vehicle.
He looked at me and said, “Are you ready?”
“For what?” I said, trying to hide my still moist cheeks and my embarrassment from them.
“You shall see.”
And with that he took the vehicle off the road. Apparently vehicles had gone past the road that had been cut, and Abenthy knew where he was going; he was driving entirely too fast for someone who had no clue where he was going. But still, I was scared. We entered a heavy forest with the oddly tiered trees and saw the birds that scattered as we entered. Then we came out into a clearing where a structure had been set up.
Abenthy unclipped himself and the vehicle turned off. The display went dark and the control wheel retracted back into the empty space beneath the front window. He stepped from the vehicle, and I reluctantly unclipped myself when he turned and gestured to me.
“What is creation?” asked Abenthy. “I, of course, have no expectation of you being able to answer. The act of creating something wasn’t in the lessons covered in your classes. The corporation doesn’t want anyone to be creative. But we are always watching for the spark of creativity.”
I began to follow along as Abenthy walked towards a set of double doors on the structure. He opened the one on the right and ushered me in. Inside was a garden. There were colors beyond my wildest dreams.
Fragrances that were both amazing and eye-watering. There was a blue-green flower that had long, drooping yellow filaments that would close if you blew on it or touched it. Abenthy even had a sapling version of one of the tiered trees from the forest outside.
“This is my space for creating and experimenting,” he said as he, ushered me into the room beyond. “Grimes has his pet projects, I know – and they are probably more to your liking. But, this place, is mine. I have grown new vegetables here. I have a fruit that we believe may hold the cure to Sapper’s Rot. This,” he said gesturing around. “Is where I create.”
I was dumbfounded. One of the scariest moments of my life was to show me a hidden garden?
Abenthy was showing me around his garden, pointing out unusual plants and telling me all about the hard work that had gone into one plant or another. He told me of the near-deadly allergic reaction he had from one vine he found, and I was shocked to see that the vine was still in his garden.
“So? What do you think?” asked Abenthy.
“One question sir, we?” I asked.
“Yes. We,” he said. “You are not the first person to want to create. Grimes has his hardware, I have my garden – and well, there are others who all make their own things. There is pride in the act of creating. And you are right to want it.”
“Grimes told me to ‘learn about his stool.’ You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it, would you?” I asked. “I may. But I will not just tell you anything. You must work to understand something. Creating things is about bringing something from your mind to life. Yes, the machines make things. Yes, the machines help us to fashion things from raw materials. But, have you ever taken a seed and helped it grow into something? There is a moment. A pivotal moment when you create something that is first an ember in your mind. You may not even realize that it’s there, or what it truly is, but it’s there. And it begins to grow. For many in the community; they ignore it and eventually – like any living thing – it will die or leave. Creativity dies this way. Creativity is found in problem solving, in how you can tell when a certain Materials-Food is working because the rations taste a little better. All of these things show creativity. No corporation can kill it entirely. We all know the same songs, but no one makes up new ones. Why is that? Are we so homogeneous that even such a simple act would be contrary to our very communal fiber?”
“The teaching machines tell us that any thought that isn’t in-line with contributing to the greater good of the community is something that ‘tear down the community from within,’,” I said.
“If a community could be torn down by a new song being sung, then let it be torn down.” said M-A Abenthy.
I heard the unmistakable throb of an engine and turned towards the door.
“Good, Grimes must be here. We can begin.”
The double doors opened and in walked Grimes, he carried his odd stool.
“So what do you think of the garden?” he asked as he placed the stool down.
“It’s amazing. Abenthy has been telling me about the act of creating something.”
Grimes put a too-large hand on my shoulder and looked me dead in the eye. “Creating something is special. It takes work to do. There is pride in doing anything. Creating something is like bringing something from one place to another. Except, in this case, it is coming from here -” he poked a stubby finger at my forehead ” and coming to here.” as he gestured to the room.
“It’s a very hard trip. Some things don’t make it so well. Somethings make it better than you ever expected. It is always worth the work. It is frustrating and agonizing to create. It will make you angry and upset to create something. The picture in your head is so crystal clear” said Grimes.
“But when you try to make something from it, it doesn’t always turn out exactly right,” he said, pointing to his stool.
Abenthy was nodding along with every word as if Grimes was speaking a great axiom.
Edit (19NOV15) – Here is Part 3!