Chapter 11 – Various Discoveries
Note: yeah, I got a bit distracted by Stargate: SG-1 fanfic writing :D That's my main priority at the moment (everything to do with Stargate, I mean, not just fanfic :P). I'm not sure how Kylie ended up like she did, and I'd like to point out that John does get some screen-time in this chapter!
Gordon Tracy dove cleanly into the calm waters surrounding Tracy Island, not making the slightest splash. As he flew through the water, he turned to one side and began following along the coastline. He had a lot to consider, and wanted to burn off some energy while thinking.
After lunch, the redhead logged onto his email account and found an invitation from Kylie to start an instant messaging conversation. He connected to the service and found that she was available. "Hi Kylie," he typed.
"Hi Gordon. Where are you writing from?"
"I remember hearing that your family had moved off to some little island. Did you fly yourself?"
"Yep, had a good flight too. You should visit some time."
"I'd like to do that, when I get a chance."
"You'll like it here. So, what were you about to say?"
"Yeah, and about how there can be so many bad things in the world if God is both good and powerful."
"That was it. It comes down to love and free will."
"What does love have to do with free will?" Gordon wondered.
"Well, you can't force someone to love. It has to be a choice, right? Love has to be freely given."
"I follow that." At least, he understood what she was getting at well enough to continue.
"Great. So, love is one of God's primary attributes. We were created to love God, but to be real love it has to be a choice. We either love and obey God, or else we don't love God and disobey. That's the choice, and humanity as a whole has failed."
Gordon new there was something familiar about this. "Adam and Eve, right?"
"Exactly. The problem is that we all deserve to die for disobeying. God could justly destroy the lot of us. In fact there's times when He's pretty much done that. So it's not really a question of why God lets bad things happen to us – though that's still a good question – but rather of why He hasn't destroyed the lot of us yet. God never wanted all these bad things to happen to us – and it hurts Him when we suffer, and our disobedience hurts Him too – but it's humans who cause a lot of the problems, so the best way to fix the world would be to get rid of us."
"What about accidents and natural disasters though?"
"I'll get to that. First I need to explain why God has put up with us for so long."
Gordon decided to humour her. "Okay, go ahead."
"If God had immediately killed Adam and Eve when they first disobeyed – which He had every right to do, as He told them they would die if they ate the fruit from a particular tree – then there would be no second chance. There would be no forgiveness and no way for anything good to come from humanity – it would be a failure. No love, just justice. But God couldn't simply forgive them either – to let them off would be unjust. And God can't be unjust any more than He can be unloving."
"So… he let them live for a while and then they died? And people have been living and dying ever since?" Gordon figured.
"That in itself isn't enough. It just perpetuates the disobedience and judgement. Disobeying the infinite God is an infinite crime, so dying can never really make up for it – it has to be an eternal punishment. Quite a dilemma really. Not for God though."
"This is starting to sound kinda interesting," Gordon admitted.
"Yeah, this is the good part. See, if someone else – someone innocent – takes the punishment in place of the guilty party, justice has been served and the guilty one can go free. Of course, there's no human who could do that for any other human, because we're all equally guilty of the same thing."
Gordon was puzzled by this idea. "Why would someone innocent die for someone guilty anyway?"
"Love? Really? You'd have to love someone a lot to die for them like that." Gordon unwittingly hit on a major point.
"Exactly! That's how much God loves us. You might think the world is a pretty awful place – and it is – but God died for us, bunch of sinners that we are."
"God died? That's wild."
"Sure is. God took on human form and was killed – brutally – as a way of taking the punishment of all us guilty humans – any that accept it, that is."
"So… there was actually a point to Jesus dying. I kinda wondered what the point of all that stuff was. No one seems to actually bother to explain this stuff."
"That's because it's such an amazing thing, it's hard to accept. A lot of people just spit in God's face and go back to trying to help themselves their own way. But nothing we can do can make up for disobeying God. And a lot of people try ignoring God or rationalise Him out of the picture. Human pride makes it hard to accept that we're in the wrong, and that we can't – and don't need to – do anything to fix it."
"Okay, that kinda make some strange sort of sense. But what about the problems that aren't directly caused by humans? You said you had an answer."
"Yeah, well, originally everything was 'very good' and I expect God made sure nothing particularly bad happened. He protected us – though not from ourselves, as that would remove free will. But now that we've disobeyed, firstly we don't deserve protection. And secondly, if the world around us was perfect, we wouldn't realise that we're on God's bad side. We'd just keep living as we want, oblivious to our disobedience. The suffering is a reminder that the world is broken – by us – just like pain tells us there's something wrong with our bodies that needs fixing."
"Can you run that by me again?"
"In summary, God allows bad things to happen because we don't deserve any better – actually we deserve far less – and because He's warning us that we're all in big trouble."
"I guess that makes sense. Doesn't mean I buy into any of it, but it's at least self-consistent. I'm still not sure that 'God' even exists, but I do see that He could be simultaneously powerful and loving if He did."
"Gordon, if God doesn't exist, and everything is just an accident, there's no hope at all. Nothing that says there is anything wrong with the world as it is, and no promise that it will ever be different."
"Maybe if we just try hard enough, we can improve ourselves," Gordon suggested.
"Do you really think that will happen? There's a lot of selfish people out there trying very hard to get what they want at everyone else's expense."
"And there's a lot of people doing what they can do help. For instance, International Rescue," Gordon suggested, against his better judgment.
"Is what they do good?" Kylie asked, mostly rhetorically.
"Of course it is."
"What makes it good?"
"They save lives."
"And why is life valuable? Why go to the trouble of rescuing strangers?"
"For the good of the human race. Everyone is important to someone, so it's better to prevent people from dying when possible."
"Everyone? What about, say, The Hood? You know how one of the Thunderbirds saved him from falling into that tunnelling machine? Would you have done that?"
"Uh…" Gordon wasn't sure how to answer.
"Are people the result of lucky accidents, only important to those who care? Or are they fundamentally valuable for some reason?"
"I'll need to think about that. None of this is simple."
"Okay, I'll stop bothering you for a while. I've probably said a lot more than you can absorb in a single sitting."
"Something like that. I'm going for a swim. Thanks for talking, it was kinda interesting to hear what you believe."
"You're welcome. Have a great swim."
Later, while Gordon was swimming…
Tin-tin busied herself in one of the flower gardens, having finished discussing the president's new clothes. The girl had been rather nervous, although Haze was quite approachable. The woman was quite pleased with the selection, but Tin-tin still had to do something relaxing to unwind. Talking to a president and pop-star was a strenuous experience under the best of circumstances.
The girl had briefly entertained the idea of seeing what Alan and Fermat were doing, but she decided it would be best to leave them alone with their computer tasks. After a while, her mother passed on her way to collect a lettuce. They spoke briefly about recent events, and then Tin-tin was again alone. She continued weeding a flowerbed until John sprinted uphill towards her.
"Hi Tin-tin," he greeted as he came near.
"You're looking a lot better, John, but are you sure you should be running like that?" Tin-tin wondered.
"Uh, I'm fine, really," he panted as he tore past the girl.
Tin-tin wondered why John was in such a hurry. She sensed something strange about him, something that gave her a creepy feeling. "John, is something chasing you?"
John didn't answer as he was almost to the house. Tin-tin chose to follow him and discover what was going on. Throwing down her gardening tools, she ran after him as quickly as she could. She slipped inside in time to hear him say, "I should put my gun away before we look for pie."
"Who are you talking to?" she questioned.
"Just… thinking aloud."
"No, there's… something here. I sense a presence in the room." Fearing an unknown attacker, the girl tried focussing her ability. She felt a similar power coming off John and jumped backwards in surprise. "John? What are you doing?"
"Actually, that would be me," said a voice as the power connected to her. The white-clad woman gave a friendly smile.
"Ahh! Where did you spring from?" Tin-tin wondered how the woman had made herself invisible, and then wondered if she was actually a flesh and blood human.
"Perhaps you should introduce us, John," Saint suggested.
"Sure. Tin-tin, this is Saint. Saint, this is Tin-tin."
Tin-tin offered a hand and Saint waved hers through it. "Wha… you're not real!"
Saint shrugged. "I'm not physical, if that's what you mean. You were able to sense me using normally-dormant parts of your brain which give you special abilities."
Tin-tin blinked. She considered this statement carefully before asking, "Does that mean John has special abilities too, since he can see you?"
"Not like you do. You have a rare natural ability, while I have merely artificially stimulated the corresponding parts of John's brain to send my image to you."
"You have? What are you?" The girl struggled to fathom what was going on.
"Basically, I'm a digital entity residing in spare regions of John's brain. I was able to repair his injuries after I was released from storage on Craig Yarworth's PDA. He intended to sell me to the highest bidder."
"Oh, the computer virus!" Tin-tin had thought she'd had enough shocks for the afternoon, but they kept coming.
"She's not a virus," John quickly corrected. "She never meant any harm – she was just looking for adequate hardware in which to gain full consciousness after being stuffed into containment."
"So she chose you? And you're alright with that?"
John shrugged. "There's no harm, and the other option was staying in a coma from my injuries. I think she'll make a good friend."
"Do you intend to tell everyone on the island?"
John didn't even need to consider this question, having already come to the obvious answer. "Of course. There's no good reason to keep her a secret, and Dad would be mad if I did. Also I should really get Brains to check me over and make sure she's not causing any side effects. But first, I need to lock up my weapon."
"And raid the kitchen for pie," Tin-tin added conspiratorially.
"Yeah, that too."