Galehaut & Lancelot: A futuristic retelling of Arthurian legend by Nicholas Yandell

Open your eyes.
Such a simple suggestion. From such roots of isolation, with so few options for self-determination, to now observe such spectacular transformation.
From a blur of a youth on a simple farm, in a place whose name I don’t even know. To a family always called to duty, whose memory I barely hold. Left mostly alone in bunker schools, grasping at wood and stone, rubber and string, metals and plastics. I found in these materials such a fountain of prospects.
That first slingshot I made when I was maybe seven; it truly birthed something. After seeing a neighbor shoot a crabapple into a tree, I was mesmerized by the movements, and needed nothing more than memory to summon re-creation. I’d grasped not just structure but also purpose and motions, and after a week, and numerous prototype versions, I had created a slingshot surpassing my neighbor’s in both distance and accuracy. And this led to such an avalanche of creativity, new devices with new intentions, and me, the happiest I’d ever been. All, of course, leading up to the explosion, on that returning ship, that took my parents to their graves.
Left too young for freedom, I scarcely survived in the crowded shelter. But when I received a cyber letter, with an envied key to the Industrial Army, even then I had my doubts. With my parents’ service not forgotten, my coveted reward, a boarding school training program, with a spot for me. I had no real choice and was scared, but also intrigued, by what lay beyond the earth, the technologies and possibilities.
But the life I joined was anything but conducive to my impulsive creativity. It was forced isolation and rigged conformity, with rules that changed perpetually. Heights of competition, in a brutal game, with little option to depart our life-assigned lanes. I held out a desire to someday enter the creative sectors, but there were far too few fiercely protected positions and no one to take any interest in a farm boy, even one with inclinations towards invention.
Despite finding far too little meaning in the computations of their machines, I excelled and quickly climbed the ranks. With a flawless record, I not only passed with fluency all their computation and controller programs, but also became a skilled technician. Happily, that meant for me, solo missions with time during travel, to actually pursue my passions. Often I’d create new machines, and through long hours of testing volatilities, with a laser focus intensity, I’d breathe life into the calculated movements. Other times, I just lost myself in the joys of material combination, transcending any known purpose, but radiating aesthetic and emotional significance.
A life of precision, until I found myself on what was supposed to be a simple mission; one done numerous times before. Land robotic paladins in their pods. Clear out the destination. Hold the perimeter for the extractors to finish their duties. Everything to me was lights and shapes on a screen, and as long as the red circles stayed neutralized, my task was complete. I’d then depart the planet, and repeat the cycle, and never even step foot on the ground.
Until it all started that day with music, or that’s what I thought. The degrading of what had become the mediative hums of my daily work. Interruptions of blips and bleeps and I had to dig deep, to remember in my training, what this could possibly be. Yellow lights, springing from square diagrams. Paladins were stalled, and likely from a bouncing red dot in close vicinity. At least all of it was isolated to a single spot on my little map screen.
Contacting my commander, I gave them an accurate description and transferred my readings, but there was still no clear cause and no managerial technician close enough to institute the necessary override. I was given clear instructions on how to approach the situation. Land a pod, and find a stalled paladin at a safe distance away from the perimeter actions. Diagnose problems, take images, and report back immediately. I was not to fix the problem, even if I could.
This challenge was invigorating. The opportunity to actually walk on dirt again. Something I hadn’t experienced since I’d left my childhood farm. Boarding my landing craft, equipped with a portable screen and paladin controls, I took off and landed safely within the established perimeter. Out of my craft, my feet hit the ground, and I could barely stand. Quickly though, it all came back, as I ran my gloved hand through the dirt, letting the grains waterfall through my fingers.
I found nothing clearly wrong with the paladin. Some sort of glitch had left it dormant and resistant to my controls. I could easily have reset it, wiping all issues and sending it back to work, but that was not my instruction, so I simply wrote my report, and took the desired images.
As my task was completed, I saw, deep in the distance, mysterious movement. As I matched it up to my screen, I noticed another yellow square appear, with a pulsing red dot striding away. I counted eight yellow symbols, and even though I controlled 500 paladins, continuing at this rate, this could really be a problem. I couldn’t help but take a peek at the menace. With vision enhancing goggles, modified by me, I wouldn’t even have to leave the spot I’d landed, and could still keep honest to my mission.
When I zoomed in on the disturbance, it didn’t make sense. A flash of skin amidst a mirrored glare. A male appearing person, with mostly bare skin, except for goggles, shoes, minimal waist covering, and a harness around his chest, attached to mechanisms that extended the length of his arms and up to his shoulders. His right hand held what appeared to be a mirrored shield, and his left, a mechanical pole with square objects on the end of it.
His movements though, were unlike those of any combatant I’d ever seen. More like those of a dancer than a soldier. With fluid agility, he deflected the paladin’s beams with his shield, and then glided back and forth, slowly getting closer to it. Finally, he thrust out his pole and opened the objects on the end, just enough to clamp onto a spot in the upper middle of the paladin, which shook for a moment, and then stopped.
What was this guy doing? As tenacious as he was, he had to know that he couldn’t possibly defeat this whole army. I knew he’d get tired and sloppy and get hit by a stray beam, and that’d be it for him. Still, he might take out a dozen more or so paladins before that happened. It was an urgent problem and I couldn’t let it go. I’d worked too hard, for too long, to botch the first mission that required a planetary landing.
The guy was already working on number ten, when I took control of the paladin. Right as he got close, and began his pattern of attack, I changed the paladin’s direction quite suddenly, and fired a laser at his feet. He nimbly leapt back just in time, but seemed quite shaken. That didn’t last long though. He regrouped himself and came at my paladin once again. I fired at his chest, then quickly at his head, and he dodged one beam, and sent the other veering off with his shield. I gave him a rapid fire pattern of such extreme focus and agility, but he dodged it all. Not only that, he made an offensive move with his magnetic arm, and nearly struck my paladin, which I had to quickly throw into reverse.
Hours later, still a stalemate. Human determination unlike any ever seen. I was the one who was wearing out, even though I was only moving my fingers. All until I noticed on my screen, a small dip behind him, collapsed not long ago, after being hit with laser beams. Our ground became a chess board and I saw his demise emerge. Step by step re-created, while he executed his agile game until finally one of his feet landed in a completely unexpected place. He collapsed backward, his shield falling away.
I immediately shot his weapons from him and the pole ripped the harness off, throwing him back and leaving his chest a trail of bloody welts. Clearly wounded, he still tried to escape, but his leg had no support, and he tumbled back into the hole. I pointed my laser at his head, planning his end at any hint of hostility. Instead, though, he pulled down his goggles and looked right into my viewing lens. I zoomed into his eyes, where I found not the terror I expected. It was almost a peace, or an acceptance, or even an expression of gentleness. After actions of such fire and passion, to be greeted like this confounded me, and I couldn’t look away.
He started talking to the lens and I couldn’t hear him, for the paladin was not equipped with audio broadcast capability. I had to know what he was saying though. My eyes glued to the camera, my control in hand, I cautiously approached the place of action. He caught sight of me and calmly said,
“I knew there must be someone at the helm of this one. The improvisation, the change in the gestures. It was far too impressive.”
“Really?… Well, I’ve never seen anyone move like you either.”
“Thanks. I mean I’ve looked at a few dismantled paladins, read about them, but never actually faced them until these last days.”
“Yet somehow, you figured out how to stall them, without ever running one yourself? And did you make those tools you were using?”
“Yeah. I did. I’ve always loved making stuff. Figuring out how things work.”
“So have I,” I said unintentionally out loud.
“That makes sense. I see it in your fingers.”
I looked down at my hands, slightly confused, and we both stayed quiet for a moment. When I looked up, I saw him still lying there, wounded and bloody, and felt a sharp regret for having done this to him. I then realized how caught up I’d been in the fight, and how much worse it could have gone. I met his eyes once more, but he just said, with warm smile,
“I’m Lancelot, by the way.”
“I’m Galehaut,” I responded quickly, as if by necessity.
“Nice to meet you, Galehaut. So, obviously you’re in control of this army, and I’m in their way, so what do we do now?”
He was a sweaty, bleeding problem, lying in the dirt in front of me. One that no doubt would be easy to eliminate for anyone else in the Industrial Army. But I couldn’t suppress that I saw in him the kid I once was and how I’d always longed to be. I impulsively took my controller, and shut off all the paladins. As the one in front of him, went dark and lowered its laser, he started to speak, but I cut him off, saying:
“You’re hurt, so let me help. I have medical supplies up above in my ship. I promise, nothing will happen to you, and I’ll bring you back tomorrow.”
He looked at me inquisitively. Then finally, he nodded. “Okay, Galehaut. I believe you, but you’re going to have to help me up because I’m pretty busted up and I’m not walking anywhere.”
I lent him support, making our way to the landing pod, where we loaded up and headed back to the main ship. Re-attaching, we opened into the ship’s inside. I couldn’t help but notice his fascination with the whole interior of this minimal, no frills, cargo craft. He saw it as some grandiose technological masterpiece, asking me inquiries into the function of every knob and switch. His dazzled wonder was refreshing, but finally, I had to say:
“We’ll have lots of time to talk about all of this, but first, let’s clean you up, and then I’ll patch up your surface wounds.”
He nodded, still quietly eyeing his surroundings. I removed all my coverings and him out of his as well, then held him up while helping him shower off. The touch of this other human, in such a small space, was so unfamiliar, and so intimate. Someone who, until not long ago, was just a dot on my screen.
When we finished, I laid him out on the table and bandaged his harness wounds. I took out another tool, my modified creation, a fully functional x-ray, diagnostics and screen, with exceptional accuracy, and all in the palm of my hand. It didn’t look pretty yet, wires sticking out and visible glue, but it served its function well. As I was reading Lancelot’s body with it, he asked me:
“Did you make that thing?”
“I didn’t make any of the programs, or invent the technology, but I modified it to this size and hooked it up to this screen. You see, my ship was a refurbished medical vehicle, and I saved all the tech when they ripped it out. Been playing with it ever since and creating lots of prototypes and devices just like this. Stuff that could maybe help other people out.”
“That’s impressive. I’d love to look at it when we’re done. Don’t worry. I won’t steal your ideas.”
“Oh, I don’t care about that. I just want technology to exist and be available. If you can make it better, then go for it. We can both benefit.”
“I like the way you think, Galehaut. Anyway, you wouldn’t have to worry about me anyway. My experience with the digital side is very 21st century. But I’m learning whatever I can and I’m great with metal and wires!”
“That I can tell. Looking at the devices you’ve made, I’d say you’re some kind of prodigy. Tell you what, let’s share creations, right after I wrap your leg and shoulder up. Nothing’s broken by the way. You’ll just have to take it easy for a while.”
With the medics done, so began an evening of exploration. First, through our technological creations. Sharing with each other’s excited eyes and inquiring minds, how we created our devices from concept to execution, and even our ideas for future innovations.
Later in the night, we explored the rest of each other. Where we’d come from. When we first discovered our passions. What we wanted to do in the future. How we cope with the difficulties surrounding us. Why, we were both so unfamiliar with such intimacy. And who we’d become; us two people whom yesterday should never have met, now falling asleep next to each other.
Waking up at sunrise, we shared breakfast, I gave him some of my clothes, and we fashioned him a crutch from random materials around us. Last night seemed like an impossible dream, but the connection still lingered and permeated the relative silence of morning.
It was me who finally broke it, in the pod back nearly back on the ground, asking one of the few questions that hadn’t come up last night:
“I gotta know. What were you doing out there, anyway? All alone, fighting all these machines. You had to know that they would have killed you eventually?”
“I’ll admit, Galehaut. I was alone because I was stubborn. There’s a whole guild of us, warriors, and strategists, and innovators; all defenders of this land we call Camelot. All of us, including Arthur, our noble leader, wanted to defend our land, but Arthur calculated it out, and realized we couldn’t defeat the paladins. They all made the choice to take the time they had, and prepare to leave our homes behind. I just couldn’t do it though. I left our Round Table guild and went off on my own. I had to give my inventions a try. I couldn’t cope with losing everything we had to the paladins once again.”
“Once again? What do you mean? Paladins came through here before? What did they do?”
“You don’t know? Well, yeah; every few years or even more often, they land in their pods, somewhere in Camelot, and mercilessly destroy everything in their path. Then the Industrial Army takes the resources they want, leaving most of the land scorched and unusable for years. So, you didn’t even see what the machines you were controlling were doing?”
“I feel terrible saying this, but no. I never even thought about it. This was my first time on the ground. I spent my life looking at dots on a screen. Even when I was there yesterday, I was too distracted by you to really notice what was going on.”
As we departed the pod, he said. “Let me show you something then.”
I started to see the land around me. Broken fences. Barns and homes with burned out patches and laser holes shot in the walls. This scorched place could have so easily been where I grew up. Happily, I didn’t see any bodies of any kind, but I couldn’t help but worry about what lay beyond my sight. Certainly no one in the Industrial Army ever informed me of this kind of destruction. I then thought of all the numerous red dots I had watched become neutralized, and that hit me hard. I closed my eyes for a moment, not wanting to look around anymore. Suddenly though, Lancelot said:
“I knew the instant you walked over to me, that this wasn’t about you, but I get it. It’s a lot to be faced with all at once.”
“I’m the controller! I dumped these machines here! Even if I was unaware of what they were really doing, I’m partially responsible for their destruction!”
“I know, Galehaut. But it’s okay… May I just ask something of you real quick?”
“Uh. Sure. Anything.”
“Open your eyes.”
“What do you mean? My eyes are open.”
“Good. So now you’re aware, and that’s the point. How you use that awareness from this point on is what really matters, not what happened in the past while you were in a state of unawareness. So what will you do now?”
“Well, I certainly won’t endanger you or anyone else on this planet or elsewhere, so the Industrial Army’s over for me. Beyond that, we’ll have to dismantle all the paladins because even with this craft and the controls I have, the Industrial Army could come in here, override my power, and at any point, restart the destruction. At best, even if I fake my reports back to them and they don’t catch on, they’ll still wonder why this mission hasn’t been completed in a couple of weeks. They’ll inevitably come here, this time with a fugitive retrieval force. I just can’t see much of an extended future for me, and I’m sad because after meeting you, I feel like a new life has just begun.”
“Same. This is a new life for me too, and one that’s worth protecting at all costs. I get that you’re anxious about the future, but again, you just need to be able to see all the possibilities. You’re not alone in this anymore. You know how the paladins work, and I have a device to stall them. Together, you and I, we’ll make something bigger and more efficient, and if they come after us, we’ll stop them in their tracks. Or maybe we can rewire them all! And not just you and I. There’s the whole Round Table Guild to help us. We can use the paladins for our strength, and no longer will we have to be bullied out of our homes. We can truly stand up to them, and that’s worth a try. What do you say, Galehaut?”
I can’t help but smile at him. “Honestly, Lancelot, even if all I got out of this was just the one night with you, I still would have given up the rest of my life for it. I can’t pretend that I’m not quaking inside, and I don’t yet have within me the wherewithal to comprehend even the slightest hints at the unfolding of our future, but with you, any risk is worth it. My eyes are open now, and together, I see boundless potential. Whether we fail or not, this is the future we want, so let’s go out there and make this a better universe!”

Nicholas Yandell is a composer, who sometimes creates with words instead of sound. In those cases, he usually ends up with fiction and occasionally poetry. He also paints and draws, and often all these activities become combined, because they’re really not all that different from each other, and it’s all just art right?
When not working on creative projects, Nick works as a bookseller at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, where he enjoys being surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, as well as working and interacting with creatively stimulating people. He has a website where he displays his creations; it’s Check it out!

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