Kansas, now. Two teenagers are running through a sunflower field. The boy, dragging the girl, is panicked, urging her to hurry or they’ll miss their chance. The girl in contrast is smiling happily. Aren’t the flowers beautiful? she asks. They smell so nice. She wants to smell the flowers, she tells the boy called Mike. Mike urges Carla to run. He can’t leave her there. Why won’t she understand? She tells him he is funny. This is their home. It isn’t! he shouts as they are close to the road. If they can get a ride, they’re gone. Oh no, he mutters the next moment, as from in front of him a voice asks where there is to go.
A flying glowing humanoid asks where he could go that would matter. Why is Mike afraid? He knows he’d never hurt him. Carla isn’t frightened. He continues that Mike’s power is interesting, but Mike shouldn’t presume for a moment that he can hurt him. Shall they go back now? No, Mike replies and shoots at him with a telekinetic bolt. Carla screams at him to stop. There’s too much pain! She screams. Why is he doing this?
Angrily, Mike turns back to the being. Accusingly, he states he said he wouldn’t hurt her. He isn’t, the humanoid points out. Mike did. He imagines quite a few people felt a twinge from that. Poor Carla was at the epicentre, so she bore the brunt. If Mike wants to go away that badly, he can go. But did he ask Carla what she wanted?
Addressing Carla, he tells her that Mike is going to take her into the world. Will that make her happier than they can? Carla shakes Mike’s hands off as she runs to the being. She doesn’t want the world. She wants to stay there and be happy. The being takes her hand and promises she will be. Carla begins to smile ecstatically as the being’s energy envelops her. He tells Mike to enjoy his time left. Carla will enjoy hers.
That isn’t happiness! Mike shouts. She doesn’t even know where she is! He sinks to the ground and lets his power flow free as he shouts that he remembers when she was funny, smart, intelligent. He destroyed her. He destroyed all of them! That was very pyrotechnic, the being remarks. Is he done? They were all told the situation. They made their choice. Intelligence wasn’t something they needed. What’s intelligence ever done for Mike?
With his head bowed, Mike asks him to wait. He’s right. There’s nowhere to go. He asks to be taken back. The being levitates the three of them away. These little outburst of rebellion are quite entertaining. He’s going to miss them when they are gone. But he does understand rebellion is just an affectation. All their roles were foreordained, even his. And they must play them.
From the sky, he looks at the result of Mike’s telekinetic outburst. He has burned the letters HELP US into the sunflower field. All those poor sunflowers. Dead for nothing, the being observes. He tells Mike to accept the future. Accept reality. No one’s going to see that. No one can save any of you.
From orbit, Nate Grey looks down on Earth, seeing the message.
A little later, he floats through the town of Picayune, Kansas. Everything seem peaceful, the people happy. Carla is dancing on the sidewalk. Only one person seems dejected, Mike. Surprised, he sees Nate floating above ground and asks him what he is. Nate remarks that he is telepathically re-circuiting everyone’s mind so they don’t know he’s there, but Mike sees him. Mutant minds are hardwired differently from Homo sapiens minds. Bypassing them demands special focus. A mutant might see him. Is he a mutant? Mike attacks him telekinetically and orders him to go away. While the building behind Nate is in shambles, Nate himself is unfazed. He reminds Mike that this wasn’t what his sign said. Help wanted or words to that effect. He probably shouldn’t use his powers like that again.
A crowd has gathered. With a thought, Nate sends them away. He’s not human! Mike bursts out. Depends on what he means, Nate replies calmly. Is he Homo sapien? No, neither of them is. But calling themselves Homo superior is presumptuous, doesn’t he think? Homo sapiens are their cousins. That’s important to remember. His name is Nate Grey. He was born on an Earth that will never exist. Mike needn’t be concerned if that doesn’t make sense. Nate is an impossibility. And a shaman. Mutants are his tribe. Did Mike burn that plea into the fields? It’s why he’s there. He’d like to meet whoever erased that message.
They stop in front of a modest shop window announcing Picayune Sun, the town’s small local newspaper. How long has the town been like this? Nate asks. In a walking coma? Five years maybe, Mike replies. But it’s been going south as long as he can remember. Ever since he got there. He refers to the newspaper editor inside, who’s working on the paper. His dad says that was thirty years ago.
The man inside looks at them. Nate Grey he says… Energy hits Nate, as he continues that Nate’s interference is not appreciated. He walks out, critically looking at his glasses. Nate made him ruin them. That’s why he doesn’t wear them into action. Why wear them at all? Nate asks. He likes the way they look, doesn’t Nate? But that’s not what Nate wants to ask, is it? He invites Nate to read his mind. Nate finds he can’t His mind is too strange. The pieces are there, but not in any structure he understands. He’s an alien. In his own way, so’s Nate.
He builds a TK shield to fend off the alien’s offence, then attacks himself. The other being is strong, but he was built to destroy worlds. He hits his foe, but it’s the town’s inhabitants who scream in agony. Surprised, Nate stops.
Having dropped any remnants of his human identity, the alien replies that if Nate understood his nature, he’d know relative strength was unimportant. He asks Nate to look with his mind, not his eyes and understand why there is no point fighting him. See what I am…
Nate looks, seeing the swirling energy patterns. A moment later, he rises into the air. An agitated Mike asks where he’s going. He’s too big, Nate replies. He needs perspective. He’ll be back. He rises above the world into orbit. Everywhere beneath him he sees the alien’s swirling energy. It interweaves through the entire world. Indistinguishable. He’s the world.
Nate returns and angrily asks what he’s done. What he was sent to do, the glowing alien replies. He’s a harvester. He doesn’t know what that is, Nate replies. He wouldn’t, the alien observes. Did Nate think the vast resources of energy of this planet were accidental? Did he never suspect some agency might be responsible? His people are farmers, nothing more threatening than that. Earth’s starsystem has existed for billions of years. The harvester’s race has existed for tens of billions. Before Earth condensed out of cosmic ash, they had determined which stars generated the most fertile planet. They knew what to look for. Almost three billion years ago, they found this world.
It was then a volcanic soup without atmosphere; its continents still cooling and unrecognizable. And there was no oxygen, which was still trapped in the vast primordial oceans. Via meteors they rained down parasites that emerged with the cells creating something new. Most died, some spawned generations of hosts infected with generations of parasites, finally merging into a single creature. And evolution began.
The parasites now called mitochondria, the energy factory in all animal cells. Their world was used to develop better and better mitochondria in increasingly complex forms. This is their crop. For eons, they patiently watched it grow. Now it’s ripe. This is the planet’s destiny, the destiny of Nate’s species. They were never meant for anything else.
Thirty years ago, the signal came. He was sent. To prepare the Earth for harvesting. His native form was energy antithetical to survival on this world. A harvester must adapt to his cropworld or dissipate.
A couple found him. The man ordered the woman to run, shouting that it’s not a child. But then the energy engulfed them as the harvester obtained their genetic samples and then generated a physical body suited to the cropworld. In a very real sense, he tells Nate, he was born here. Born of parents – the couple turning to dust, and they were his parents who gave him their form, their energy. They gave him everything. With his new form he destroyed them. He is far more native to this world than Nate.
Yet he is also still energy. For thirty years, he cast his net across every mitochondrion on the glob preparing for the harvest.
Why now, after billions of years? Nate asks. He isn’t stupid, the harvester retorts. Isn’t it obvious? Mutants, Nate realizes. A quantum leap in evolution, it meant the field was ready, the Harvester explains. Not that it concerns Nate. He’s not sure what Nate is, but he doesn’t belong here. They seeded this world for energy. It’s time to bring n the crop. He warns Nate to stay out of the way.
He doesn’t have the right, Nate shouts. These are living creatures! Doesn’t he care about them? A rancher may love his lifestock, but that doesn’t save them from the slaughterhouse, does it? comes the reply. Life on this planet exists for one purpose and one purpose alone. It was made for harvesting and nothing will change that.
Nate offers his own power if the Harvester will leave humanity alone. His power is tainted, the Harvester scoffs. Nate could fight him and would probably win. But the Harvester is part of everyone now. If Nate hurts him, he hurts them. Kill the Harvester, he’ll kill them all.
Nate grabs Mike and flies away. They land in a sunflower field. Mike doesn’t understand. Mike could be a strong telekinetic if he tried, Nate says unexpectedly. Being a shaman is difficult, he continues. You stand apart from your tribe, and from you own emotions. You have to be ready to do what the tribe needs. Mike points upwards, seeing something. Nate ignores that, instructing the boy further. Above all you have to remember you’re just a man. No matter what your power level. Men make mistakes, men die. He touches Mike’s forehead, passing something.
What’s he going to do? Mike asks. He’s going to stop him, Nate replies and flies upward, instructing him to be a good shaman, if that’s his choice. Always think for yourself.
Now, the harvester states and his energies swirl out, engulfing everyone. People try to run in horror as they too are turned to stone, like once the harvester’s “parents.” Only Carla stands there happily and without any idea of what is happening.
Wait! Suddenly comes Nates voice. A last time, he reminds the Harvester that he lived among these people. Do they mean nothing to him? More than Nate knows, comes the reply. He cherishes every one of them. But he exists for this too. And Nate will not interfere. He fires energy at Nate. Despite the onslaught, Nate moves closer to him, insisting that he will. The Harvester reminds him that if Nate destroys him, he destroys the world.
Nat grabs him. In the swirl of both their energies, he explains that he was created to destroy worlds. Maybe this is the moment he exists for. He was told at some point every cell, every atom in his body would dissolve into a critical mass of unbridled energy. If he imploded, he’d burn out of existence. If he exploded, he’d take a large part of existence with him. He wonders what will happen, if he turns all his power on himself.
Is he insane? The Harvester protests. He wouldn’t be surprised, Nate replies as electricity crackles from his glowing eye. Suicide isn’t victory, the Harvester points out. Nate won’t win that way. He will only die. No one’s going to die, not even the two of them, comes the reply. Both begin to glow brighter. They are becoming energy now, Nate tells him. Can he feel it? The Harvester is a conduit to every living thing on Earth. With him Nate’s energy will flow through everything. Nate will taint everything. He’ll make this world useless to the Harvester’s people. But they’ll both dissolve, the Harvester protests. Neither of them will exist anymore. As entities no, Nate replies, but a bit of them will be in each creature on the planet. In every living cell that will descend from them. They’re going to live forever!
High above, Mike has watched the spectacle. They’re gone now. No, they aren’t, he realizes. They’re everywhere.
Everything’s changed, Mike realizes as he lands in the crater where the two of them fought. Carla runs to him. He thought she was dead, he admits. Why? she asks surprised, She doesn’t remember? Was he flying? She asks confused. He didn’t know how before, Mike admits as he holds her. It’s easier than you think.
They walk among the sunflowers as he tells her that today he watched a man give up his self and flow into every being on earth to rescue them from their destiny. He gave Mike something before he left, if he can figure out what it is. Carla doesn’t understand. Neither does he, Mike admits, but that’s all right. He’s got to go. He’s sorry. He flies away. Why? Carla calls after him. His tribe needs a shaman. He thinks he might learn how to be one.