Despite mastering the art of travel back to the white place, he had trouble doing it in reverse back to the normal world. The other had to help him, even more so because he didn’t know where they were going.
The other had taken him to a lovely little planet covered entirely with sand, except for one oasis just big enough for the village of four-hundred-odd beings who populated it.
About half the population Rex could see were doing the work of running a town: farming, milling, mending, cooking, cleaning. It looked like a pleasant place to live. The villagers were friendly and not surprised to see Rex, waving cheerfully and offering their simple hospitality to refresh him and his companion.
The half of the population who were not doing day-to-day work were sitting in a large village square, weaving. Weaving a giant rug. The bulk of the rug was rolled into a enormous cylinder that was twice the length of one of their modest dwellings, and about as high. He wondered who it was for, and how they intended to move such an immense object once they finished. He figured it must have taken them years.
"Seven hundred years,“ said his companion.
"They have been weaving for eight generations and it will not be done for at least three more.“
Rex was flabbergasted.
“Why in space would they need such a large rug? What is the need for it here? Will they sell it?”
"The Heeyaas were once a space-faring race, enamoured with the universe, and happy simply exploring galaxies in their life-ship.“ \
"One thousand years ago they met the Xentash, another race who took their ship and stranded them on this planet. The Heeyaas were heart-broken but never without hope. They rebuilt their society, and when it was strong they began weaving again.“
“But weaving for what?”
"The rug is the neural network that will command their new ship. It was the technology the Xentash coveted: an immense AI hand-crafted into the fabric itself. They have rebuilt their ship, better and stronger than before. They patiently weave and tell stories of the universe they will one day explore again.“
“Such patience,” exclaimed Rex, “to spend one thousand years, and so many lifetimes hoping to one day visit the stars again.”
Rex marvelled at the lesson the other had brought him here to teach him. And entire race dedicated to patience, wisdom and the pursuit of knowledge.
"They will explore again,“ continued the other, "but first they will hunt down and exterminate every Xentash they can find.“