Hot days in the summer of 1853 blistered the skin of any white man who worked the railway, even the supervisors. Sand scolded and sizzled in the air around them in the desert of the west and made seventy degrees feel like one hundred. the average was ninety.
This led to the first fully African American slave manned construction of a rail system led by an elderly man named John Henry, a former slave that was well versed in hard work, though the position of authority was new to him and he had reasons to be discouraged by a role where he pressed blacks to work, his moral logic finally came to the conclusion it'd be better to be himself than anyone else.
They worked long into the night,with John holding a hammer side by side with the men,only stopping to review work and instruct on dynamite placement, short meals came in between often taking bites between hammer strikes of a thin ham sandwich.
"Suh! Got a big mound in the middle uh the track route!"
"Well...? Ain't you the one they hired to blow up dat stuff son? Getta work"
"Suh it'd be gone already if I didn't...Summum behind that mound suh. Summum sound like steel but feel like cotton. Ain't natural"
John Henry thought the boy had heat stroke. In the slave world superstition was a double edged sword of fear and hope. What was in that mound might instill both, and neither were needed right now. These men were the few that got payed actual wages, any sign of a laps in work and they'd all be fired and sent back to the fields, "Keep it to yaself, and show me."
A long walk down the tracks leads into the night, hammers clang against metal in the far far distance, the edge of the track blocked by a dust covered boulder with an odd round shape. John moves in and circle sit with hand on one hip as the other hovers a newly lit lantern, "I never...don't think even the smartest white man'd know what this is."
"What ya reckon we do about it?" The explosives expert asks, as John puts his hand to it, lantern swaying closer to the pile, he sees the dusted a protrusion of some kind that made him think automatically of a rail spike. John could read and write but his memory was 99% muscle, and he knew how to drive a spike "Hold dis and don't move"
John grabs a hammer off the side of the rail, walking back over and planting his feet, "Don't move boy I need that light" The Hammer is gripped above his head at the neck, sliding down to meet his other as the head slams the spike.
White light engulfs the end of the rail road, even the workers a mile out could see the phosphoric illumination in the edge of the dark horizon as it dies back down to pitch blackness.
John stands and looks at the mound, shocked and in awe as a black man in colorful clothes with a clean handsome face stands in front of him, "John Henry. Thank you. If you had not struck that crystal all may have been lost."
John out of fear swings the hammer at the man, as he only pixelizes and reforms, "I am not your enemy John Henry. I hope to be your ally."
Looking to the side John realized the explosives expert, was dead. Head oozing from the back onto a rock. "Were you trying to be his too...? That boy had children."
"His death was of no intention of mine, I promise you. I've seen enough of that in one lifetime... John Henry, are you a man of faith? Do you believe one day your people will be free, made equal in this world?" The hologram says stepping forward as John steps back, "What you...? I... I... do. "
The holographic man smiles with his eyes closed, "That is good to hear. The object you and your man found is not a rock, but a ship. One that travels no oceans, but the sky's skies. Inside, lies every hope and wish of a people now dead, because they realized too late, what I know now; Freedom is worth more than profits. Slaves, are also people."
"What..." So many questions, but he tried to stay in the present, "What's inside of it?"
"My son. The first slave bred boy born to a high born science magister. Inside him lies the key to your people freedom, inside him lies the key to the doorway of the future. I only ask on thing of you, John Henry. "
"Show him the path. Raise my son as your own and love him as you would your own. Know John, I will never lie to you, or to him. My son will be powerful. More powerful than any machine on this planet, faster than any locomotive, his sight will see things no others can, his ears will hear the pacific from the Atlantic. He will be like a god. "
"Is that what yall are...gods?"
The holograms face tightened at the jaw, "No. We are not nor have we ever been gods. Merely visitors, from a place that no longer exists. Teach that to my son. The most powerful lesson he must ever learn; Will be humility"
The holgram disperses, and behind it a capsule emblazoned with an impressively etched Z opens in four directions to reveal a chubby brown baby, eyes wet from tears as it's small toes kick, little hands grasping at the air for a hand to hold. Men, aren't born with a maternal instinct. But we do have something else. As john reached in and picked up the boy he felt his finger get squeezed, lifting the blanket to look in the boys eyes, the face quickly turning into a toothless smile. A man like John would never say it out loud, but it was safe to say he fell in love with this boy, His son. "What we gonna call you...?"
"I'm not a man with much imagination so....better be John Henry Jr..." Smiling he looks back into the pod to see the silver coloreed metal blinking inside, "Naw...how bout John Henry Irons."
"Take that as a yes"