Monthly Archives: January 2018

Gaiastan, Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

The old engine lugging the prisoners puffed its way up and up and up Hegel pass, drawn forward by her growling piston steam engine. Its infernal cauldron, glowing orange, was filled with coal ripped from one of the twenty five massive strip mines operated by the Department of Greenergy.

It was night when they finally reached the summit where the railway carved a slot through snow and ice three meters deep. They then began their decent. The train’s wheels screeched and squealed in the darkness as they tried to grip the slippery iron rails and resist the immutable downward pull of gravity.

D’naia slept in Indigo’s arms, face concealed by the darkness and locks of her silky hair. Her neck was throbbing from the stone. There was one lantern in the car and beneath its glow sat the taxidermist still dutifully reading her Gaians Bible. The others in the cattle car sat huddled in the corners, silent and grim. Indigo recognized one of them as the Hegeltown Ceremonial Manager whom he encountered shortly after his arrival. He recalled how she had then expressed so much pride in having been selected for bureaucratic advancement. So much for one’s dedication and party loyalty, Indigo thought. He wondered what she had done to merit a brain reformat or reclamation.

 

Periodicially, the train’s braking would send a chain reaction jolt through their cattle car which reminded Indigo of the bumps and thuds of the Mars mission, the effect of the Astarte’s forward auxiliary rockets firing intermittently, making the frequent corrections to the space can’s interplanetary trajectory as it raced toward the red planet. By that point in the mission, there were only three astronauts left: Indigo, Staley and Athena.

Staley performed the calculations and determined that there would not be enough oxygen for the Mars landing and a return journey to Earth for the three survivors; one passenger would have to be removed if the other two were to survive. The triumvirate was presented with the challenge of deciding who was going to be sacrificed, but perhaps the more difficult question to be answered was how they were going to decide.

Random selection was proposed and rejected by all three as too arbitrary. Age? Too discriminatory. Technical skill? None of the three were especially skilled, at least not significantly more than any other.

In the backs of their minds, they each silently hoped that Mission Control would scrap the landing and redirect them home. Without a landing, there might be just enough to get the three of them back alive. At that point, with so many of the crew having been lost, what did it matter whether or not they actually walked on Mars?

Between the debates, Staley worked his way toward the back of the space can to compose himself and to think through the possibilities. Perhaps there was a way the crew could fully wrest control of the ship from Motherland Control and return home on their own. But the mathematical precision required to manually thrust the Astarte into an orbit that would catapult them around Mars and back to Earth vastly exceeded the crew’s quantitative capabilities. The likely outcome of their calculus would be a one way trip to the Oort cloud, dooming them all.

Nothing of any brilliance came to Staley until he gazed at the latches of the airlock. How simple it would be for him to step into the coffin-like chamber, seal the door behind him, and launch himself into the frozen, irradiated void. Twenty, maybe thirty seconds of painful consciousness, swelling, burning. His eyes would freeze. Then blindness, hypoxia, and merciful blackout. Then his blood would boil and the bubbles of gas would stop his heart and brain. The oxygen problem would then be solved for the other two. It would be a heroic end for Staley, and Athena, whom he loved, would survive.

But Staley couldn’t bring himself to do it. He lacked the impulsiveness and narcissistic fortitude required to commit suicide. He was ashamed that he didn’t have the courage to die for her. He would leave the fate of them all to some other resolution and he knew he would forever resent himself for that decision.

The crew convened and radioed back to Gaiastan. “We cannot decide how to decide,” was their desperate message.

Their transmission, travelling at the speed of light, took eight minutes to reach Gaia. The technicians there were prepared with a response. The crew on the Astarte knew this because it only took a total of seventeen minutes from their transmission to receive their answer…which came in the form of an order.

“You will decide by a vote. Democracy is the only moral option. Vote for who shall live. Please appeal to your own altruistic nature when casting your ballot.”

The answer did not surprise them.

And so they each took a scrap of paper and wrote down a name. There were no rules of order. They could write any name, and because of this, Staley was convinced that everyone would write their own name resulting in a hopeless tie. Then Mission Control would scrap the pointless exercise in democracy, scrub the Mars landing, and reprogram them for a slingshot around Mars and a return home.

No one looked at each other when they wrote their names on their papers and placed them in an upturned space helmet. When their lots were cast, the trio stared silently at the helmet containing their three ballots. No one was particularly willing to initiate the count that would decide their fate so Indigo radioed Gaiastan.

“We have voted.”

Seventeen minutes later the response came. “Staley, please read the votes out loud.”

Staley reluctantly picked up the space helmet, raising it with caution as if it were filled with nitro-glycerin. Before pulling out the first ballot, he scanned the eyes of the other two. Indigo’s stare was like a dead man’s glare, blank, emotionless. Athena’s gaze was reassuring but filled with tears.

 

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How the #XFL Can Save Football

The NFL is dying. No, its demise is not eminent. Baseball, for instance, has been dying for 50 years. It’s way past its peak but it has managed to linger on. Football is going the same way: a slow erosion into irrelevance. I am concerned about that because I think it is the ultimate team sport in that it requires self-less, often unnoticed contributions, from unheralded teammates in order for the team to achieve its goal. I also believe it is one of the last remaining outlets for competitive, physical, alpha males. I am convinced that the reasons for the relentless, asymmetrical attacks on football’s safety originate partly in a broad cultural assault being waged on traditional masculinity in general…but that’s a topic for another discussion. It’s a violent sport. Nobody is forced to play it. It’s not for everyone.

No, this is a post about how the XFL might end-run the NFL’s grip on America.

Modern professional football is almost unwatchable. Every team essentially alternates between the same sequence of predictable, boring plays: short timing route pass, quick hitting inside run, short timing route pass, off tackle run, occasionally a long pass to keep the defense honest, and always, always a running back screen on third and long. Every team runs the exact sames plays and formations. Don’t quibble with me about West Coast this and Erhardt-Perkins that. It’s all the same B.S.: 2 wide, 1 slot, 1 back, 1 TE. Every team has the same identity…they are utterly indistinguishable with their utterly interchangeable, utterly unimaginative, utterly risk-averse coaches.

To make things worse, the sport is now dominated, in much the same fashion as the NBA, by a handful of super stars who are afforded the benefit of the doubt on all officiating calls by complicit refs. Like the NBA, if your team lacks one of these stars, your team has 0.00 chance of winning a championship. The star’s team will be bailed out by a suspiciously-timed illegal contact, holding or no-call. It’s almost as absurd as pro wrestling.

To make things even worse-er, the sport has been co-opted by our lamentable political zeitgeist and military industrial complex. The hyper-zealous flag-worship, the obnoxious jet flyovers, and the otherwise McDonaldsified patriotism has become a distraction and even an annoyance. I can’t tell if I’m watching a sporting contest or being recruited for military service or being jingo-ed up for war against the Nazis. Whatever it is, it’s way, way over the top.

If you want to make the pro game compelling again it must be changed on multiple fronts. Here are my proposals…are you listening #VinceMcMahon?

  1. Roll back the rules that enable offensive dullness. Rules like special pocket-passing QB protections and restrictions on coverage defenders have actually forced the game into its current, one-dimensional, predictable design. Take the security blanket away from the offensive coordinators. Force them to find ways to innovate and attack defensive weaknesses rather than just finding a guy who can throw a ten yard out on time. This would force coordinators to consider more misdirection, option, and exotic formations. It would foment an era of creativity. This would eventually challenge defensive coordinators who presently only have to diagram to stop about 5 plays.
  2. Widen the hash marks…dramatically. The wide-side of the field aspect of non-NFL football is a strategic advantage to offenses. It has to be honored by the defense. Without it, the NFL fans rarely witness the excitement of the outside run game. The defense can only be stretched laterally by the eye-roll-inducing bubble screens and hitch passes.
  3. Relax the jersey-number-pass-eligibility restriction. A player can legally receive a pass in the NFL so long as he starts the play in the backfield or as the end man on the line…AND has a number not between 50 and 79 (unless he “reports” to an official as an eligible end). This rule is for the benefit of dumb refs who can’t keep track of who the eligible players are on passing plays. I say dump the numbering rule. Make the refs spend more time tracking eligible players and less time calling holding penalties or illegal contact. It would dramatically open up the possibilities for new strategic innovations. Anyone hear of “A-11“? It would also de-specialize players. General athleticism would become more desired. Hyper-specialization is dehumanizing the sport and risking the health of its freak players.
  4. Radically change instant replay. Instant replay is anti flow. It’s a distraction. It represents an appeal to a pencil-necked, authoritarian bureaucrat, in a secret chamber, to lord over OUR populist, gladitorial game. Frankly, instant replay is totally un-American in spirit. It’s emblematic of the sovietization of the NFL. Here’s what I would replace it with: You can challenge any call. If the call on the field is over-ruled by a panel of three jurists agreed to by both coaches, the ref is given a red card. Three red cards in a season and the ref is terminated…or fed to the lions. If the call is not over-ruled by the jury, then the team who challenged the play is charged with a fifteen yard delay of game penalty to be applied whenever the opposing team would like to apply it. I doubt anything but the most egregious of blown calls would be challenged. But when it happens, the drama will be palpable!
  5. Limit the pre-game. Stretch. Walk-throughs. Anthem. Coin toss. No 400 foot long flags. No ear-piercing bomber flyovers. No smarmy politicians. Make the game front and center. There is a time and place for reflection on sacrifice and duty…it’s not during a game watched for amusement and escape. The NFL’s manipulation of militarism is obnoxious, demeaning and crass.
  6. If you are CONVICTED of a felony, you are fired, forever. End of story.
  7. Dial down all the annoying ancillary stuff. It’s just a distraction. Laser beams, fireworks, dance troops, scoreboard animations, smoke, 1980s heavy metal music between plays… get rid of it. Make the game the spectacle. Halftime is for getting a beer and taking a leak.
  8. Shorten the play clock. Force coaches to become economical in their play calling. The game is way, way too coach-centric. I don’t care that some washed-up player turned power drunk coordinator can sniff a laminated sheet that has scripted every player’s movement against twenty possible defensive alignments for 120 offensive plays. These control freaks think the game is all about them. I don’t want to see these sideline clowns overthink everything. If it’s third and a foot, run QB wedge. These idiots must think there are style points being awarded or something. I find myself loathing the very sight of them. Marginalize them! I’d make huddling difficult. Delay of game would always be a 15 yard penalty. Put the play calling back on the QB and back on the field. Make the game dynamic and real-time rather than the incremental chess match between middle-aged, managerial nerds that it has become.
  9. Limit coaching staffs to 6-8 coaches and a trainer. Limit rosters to 40 players. The over-specialization is stifling the spontaneity of the sport. It’s become like watching task-masters preside over children working in an Indonesian sweat shop. Let the players control the action, not the washed up, self-important egomaniacs on the sideline.
  10. Deepen the end zone to make passing easier inside the ten yard line.
  11. Narrow the goal posts to make place kicks much more difficult AND add another set of wider goal posts for drop kicks. If you’ve ever seen a drop kick, it is an exciting, fluid play that should be resurrected!
  12. And finally, go back to soft helmets. The sport changed with the advancement of hard shell helmets. The hard shell helmet became a tool to use for hitting. It changed tactics and the way offenses and defenses were designed. It also created a false sense of security for players. The prospect of imminent, immediate skull fracture is a much better deterrent to stupidly using one’s head as a battering ram than gradual, incremental brain damage by thousands of tiny traumas accumulated over years. I’m sure that safe technology is presently available.

So there you have it. What do you think?

Gaiastan, Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

D’naia and Indigo sat pressed together on a wooden bench in a cell with their arms wrapped tightly around one another. The sunlight from the outside was blocked by black paint on the windows. The only light in the cell was provided by two dim oil lamps. Opposite D’naia and Indigo, there sat the old taxidermist woman–the junior warden. Indigo recognized her when she was brought in. She began dutifully reading her Gaians Bible and looking strangely at ease. Perhaps religion does that for people, Indigo thought. He, on the other hand, was terrified but was trying keep up a pretense of strength for D’naia whom he feared was teetering on the brink of an emotional collapse.

Indigo knew that mind-reformatting was the same thing as death, no matter how Mr. Lever framed it. Indigo was not a believer in any spiritual afterlife. Virtual immortality was all that he had hoped for. He was, however, becoming convinced of the existence of a mortal soul— something innate in man that understands right and wrong. Joe Hannan had convinced him of that, at least. He decided that man was more than the sum of his molecules. To erase and reload a consciousness was to murder the soul. Thou shalt not murder.

Indigo had come to grips with his mortality back on the Astarte. The cumulative failures of the Birkelund plasma inducers brought oblivion fully into the consciousness of the crew. They were too far out to have their consciousness retrieved and rebooted so death would be final. When godless mortality and the impossibility of virtual resurrection stared Indigo in the face, he came to fully understand the nature of it. What he remembered understanding was that life is limitless— in any personal sense of experience— because experience and sensation of life itself requires one to be alive. One cannot experience the moment before or the moment after life, so life is without an edge… without beginning and without end. However, he decided, it is best that when the end comes, it comes unexpectedly because the sensation of dread awaiting it would be most unpleasant.

 

The luxury of unexpected death was not enjoyed by the crew of the Astarte. The tick tock of their oblivion clock drove each of the crew to madness on one level or another. Indigo secretly hoped that, if they were in fact doomed, that the Astarte might be struck by a meteor of sufficient size that the self-sealing hull would be irreparably breached and the space can would instantaneously blow itself apart.

Ensign Friederich, himself no longer able to bear the dread, hoped to hasten the final toll of the iron bell by reprogramming the life support systems to gently expel the oxygen. He was discovered by Gaiastan Mission Control which halted his viral program… but it was too late.

 

The taxidermist interrupted Indigo’s lucid nightmare with a chuckle.

“What do you find so amusing?” Indigo asked. “Don’t you know what awaits us?”

“Of course I know,” she answered, as she glanced up from her Holy Book. “Don’t you know that we’ve been selected? We are on the eve of our immortal rebirth. They’re taking us to have our souls downloaded into the Heavenly Virtuality. It’s going to be wonderful to finally be liberated from the chains of this broken, physical body. Look at these hands of mine! They barely work, anymore. Do you know how difficult it is to butcher savages with arthritis?”

“Where did you get your ideas?” D’naia asked.

“It’s all in the Good Book, young woman. Don’t you read your Gaians Bible?”

“I don’t waste my time on fairy tales.”

“Bless your heart and may Gaia have mercy on you. But just listen for a second…. Let me read to you from The Book of Ehrlich, Chapter 9…

 

‘Blessed are the Undermen: for theirs is the Kingdom of man. Blessed are they that mourn for the Earth, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the obedient for they shall be given their rations. Blessed are they who deprive themselves for they shall be held guiltless. Blessed are those who live sustainably for they shall be sustained. Blessed are the true Gaians for they shall receive immortality. Blessed are the Greens for they shall be called the Children of Gaia. Blessed are ye when the polluters defile Her and poison Her and you reap them for Her sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great reward awaits you in Heavenly Virtuality.’”

 

“You can keep your superstitions,” D’naia snapped.

“I’ve eliminated the polluters… all manner of humate demons,” the old woman continued. “I ended their unrighteousness.”

“By murdering them,” D’naia replied.

“Murder is taking the life of a human. One can’t murder a humate any more than one can murder a dog. The polluters are unrighteous and I killed them. I did god’s work and for that, I’ll get my eternal reward.”

“You’re a fool. You’re only reward will be a rendering plant where they turn you into soap.”

“Silence, you demon! I will pray for the redemption of your wretched soul.”

“And I will pray that all of our ends will be quick and painless,” D’naia replied.

Indigo tightened his grip on D’naia trying to signal her to not antagonize the taxidermist anymore.

“Tell her she’s a fool, Indigo,” D’naia plead. “Tell her there’s no God… that heaven is a lie… that Gaia is a myth. Tell her.”

Indigo held his words.

There was finally a knock at the door. Mr. Lever and a codex enforcer appeared and let themselves in. Lever wore his customary oxblood overcoat and derby with a feathery orange boa wrapped around his neck. He immediately burst into a bout of coughing which carried on for two minutes and nearly doubled him over. “A most rotten climate you have, here,” he remarked. “I do hope I am not so unfortunate as to catch a respiratory ailment from one of these sickly undermen, considering my weakened immunity.”

The taxidermist set down her Gaians Bible and fell onto her knees before Master Lever.

“Sir,” she sobbed as she pressed her face onto Lever’s black boots, polishing them with her tears and drool. “I must take this moment to thank you for all you’ve done for us. Thank you so much for choosing us for redemption. Thank you. I do hope I perform the tribulation with grace. Thank you. Oh pray that I may have the strength of Gaia. Thank you oh great master.”

“You see this woman?” Lever asked Indigo and D’naia. “Now this is a woman who knows how to properly humble herself.” He reached down to her and pulled her back onto her feet by her gray, wiry hair. She was sobbing uncontrollably with snot running down to her chin. “Your homage has been noted, Madam. For your act, I can assure you that the release of your soul will be painless.” He helped her back to her bench, picked up her Gaians Bible, smirked faintly as he scanned the embossed cover of it, then politely handed it to her. “And now, my friends, it’s time. It is time to begin your tribulation. You must now pass through the Gauntlet of Repentance where you will be scourged of your iniquity by your peers. Please disrobe. You may keep your lockets.”

As Lever said that, the codex enforcer zapped an arc of electricity from his chattel prod.

The old woman had only one garment left to remove. She yanked her sweat-stained slip up over her girth and off her head and let it fall to the floor. “Sir, may I bring this?” She asked of Lever, referring to her Holy Book.

“Of course,” Lever answered, kindly.

Clinging to her book, the bluish-skinned taxidermist, all hairy knock-knees and spider veins, gleefully scurried past Mr. Lever and the codex enforcer, through the door behind them and into the mob-flanked causeway. The gauntlet roared in abhorrence.

Indigo held D’naia close, covering her nakedness with his own body. She was showing her pregnancy, being four months along, but the hard living and lean diet of their homestead life preserved her slender figure. Indigo sheathed the mother of his child the best he could. Mr. Lever didn’t so much as dilate a pupil at D’naia’s naked body. The desires of high degree Overman were much more esoteric than a mere naked female form could induce.

“I’ll spare you the religious talk,” Lever continued. “We both know that this has everything to do with feeding the serfs their dose of public spectacle… ‘bread and circuses’ as they used to say. The undermen out there would smash the skulls of infants if we told them they were traitors to the republic. They just love whipping themselves up into a furor over traitors. Ha! I’ll even let you in on a little secret. You can take undermen out of their tribe but you can’t take the tribalism out of the undermen. That’s the secret to manipulating them. It’s a beautiful system, I must admit. They’re like little flesh puppets. All we need to do is pull their strings. Nothing to it. Now, if you don’t mind, your cattle car awaits.”

“This will blow back on you. They’ll remember that I’m the spaceman. I’m a hero to them.”

“I’ve already cured them of that, Indigo. Just be sure to move quickly to the train and keep your head down lest someone knock you unconscious.”

Mr. Lever and the codex enforcer stepped aside and directed them through the door.

“Usurper! Liar! Terrorist!” Shouted the throng as D’naia and Indigo passed into Gauntlet of Repentance. The taxidermist marched proudly ahead of them, Gaians Bible clutched to her breast, spider veins stretching and contracting as she strutted through the tribulation of hate and up a staircase and into a cattle car where she was handed a pair of green overalls. Indigo clutched D’naia even tighter, shielding her naked, pregnant body from the frozen air and the mob of psychopaths the best he could. They clumsily made their way through the jeers and spit and stones.

“What did you do to Staley?” One savage screamed from the fray. “The demon drugged him! Indigo poisoned our hero!” shouted another. “Indigo the murderer!” “Look at her, look at the whore!” one shrieked at D’naia. “How does it feel to fellate Satan, himself?” called another.

A stone glanced off Indigo’s shoulder.

“I hope you die a painful death you traitor!” Shouted another who leaned his face into the gauntlet to scream it directly into Indigo’s ear. “Behold the humate maggots!” “You thought you could get away with it!” “They’ll boil you alive!” “Kill them now!” “Let us at them! We’ll kill them ourselves!”

Someone hurled another stone that hit D’naia in the neck. Indigo covered her head with both arms and pushed her faster towards the boxcar.

“Humate scum!” “Animal!” “Capitalist pig!”

Up the scaffolding and into the cattle car they stumbled, receiving their green overalls. They hid in the sanctuary of a corner. D’naia kept her head buried in her hands and nestled her freezing body into Indigo’s. The codex enforcer, egged on by the rioting serfs, started jabbing his chattel prod into the car, shocking the prisoners indiscriminately. Indigo positioned himself over D’naia to protect her from the volts and the cold the best he could. The car door slammed shut to darkness.

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Jordan B. Peterson Routs BBC4 Maoist

#FakeNews was in full hyperbolic mode when it interviewed Jordan B. Peterson on BBC4 on 1/16/18.

Here is the exchange that captures the essence of why anyone who “uses” dinosaur news is a hopeless useful idiot:

Smug Interviewer: “Tell us about the lobster.”

Peterson: “Well that’s quite a segue. Well, the first chapter I have in my book is called “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back.” And it’s an injunction to be combative. Not least to further your career, let’s say, but also to adopt a stance of ready engagement with the world and to reflect that in your posture. And the reason that I wrote about lobsters is because there’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the western patriarchy and that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. And I use the lobster as an example because the lobster–we divulged from lobsters in evolutionary history about 350 million years ago–common ancestor. And lobsters exist in hierarchies and they have a nervous system atuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin like our nervous system. And the nervous system of the lobster and of human beings is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with socio-cultural construction, which it doesn’t.

Smug interviewer: “Let me get this straight, you’re saying we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters.”

[queue the rim-shot]

Are you kidding me? Is this what passes for “journalism” these days. Unbelievable.

I find myself totally mesmerized by #JordanBPeterson.  Although I still despair, he gives me hope.

Here’s the full interview:

 

#FAKENEWS

Anyone who suggests that the press is anything more than a propaganda wing shilling for the military/banking/pharmaceutical industrial complex, and cheer leading for the ever-expanding police/surveillance/warfare/federalized state is a hopeless useful idiot.

It’s ALL FAKE. All of it. CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, NPR, the local morons… It’s all propaganda tailored to get you hooked and supporting their sponsors.
When you watch a “news” report, it almost always follows the same pattern:
1. “Look, look at this problem over here!”
2. “What are the authorities doing about it?”
Your emotional response of fear or anger is initially triggered, then you are comforted with the possibility of a solution which immediately restores your blissful state. Stimulus…response. Stimulus…response. “News” has nothing to do with communicating objective, useful, actionable information. It is little more than a cheap drug.

Gaiastan, Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

Coughing roused Indigo from the clutches of a dream. He woke into the gray hues and early morning chill of the wilderness. He rubbed the blurriness from his eyes to find Joe Hannan awake and tending the fire. Indigo sat up, careful not to disturb D’naia whose head rested in his lap. The light revealed the surroundings which were different than he had envisioned in the darkness. Ravens flew by overhead. He couldn’t remember what his dream was about but it left him with a remnant sense that he had betrayed someone.

He was startled to find a visitor had joined them in their camp. The stranger was holding a revolver in a gloved hand, aiming it at Joe Hannan. He held a handkerchief in the other, spotted with blood.

“Good morning, Indigo,” greeted the stranger.

Joe Hannan tended the fire without response.

“Who are you?” Indigo asked.

“My name is Lever.”

“You’re a Sunstein Agent.”

“Indeed.”

“How did you find us?” Indigo asked.

“Look behind you,” grumbled Joe Hannan as he jabbed at the campfire coals.

Indigo turned and found a dusty, archaic machine of man-height, standing like a sentry, covered in branches and leaves.

“It’s an old kiosk,” Joe Hannan lamented. “It was activated by your immortality locket. I thought you left in a deposit box in town.”

“I couldn’t leave it behind. I was afraid. What’s a kiosk doing way out here, anyway?” Indigo asked.

“It wasn’t ‘way out’ a hundred years ago,” Mr. Lever responded. “Look up. You’re camping under an old storefront. You see, Indigo,” Lever continued, “you’ll never be beyond our grasp. We can always find the ones like you. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“I’m not going back with you,” Indigo declared. “I’m finished with your world.”

“Let’s not be unreasonable, Indigo,” Lever proposed. “You know that you are of great value to Gaiastan. We really must bring you back so that you can continue performing your patriotic duties.”

“I… we are not going back with you. I know what you’ll do to us.”

“Oh, Indigo,” Lever answered. “Don’t be difficult. There is no hope of escape. There are hovercraft filled with Motherland Security nearby.”

“Staley escaped.”

“He slipped out of our grasp by a fit of extraordinary luck. But we’ll find him. It won’t take me long.”

“Then you should start looking for him because we are not going back with you.”

“You know, Indigo, to be honest, we probably could shrug off the loss of one of you. Theoretically, we could rebrand one of you as the lone surviving hero. The herd will accept whatever we tell them so long as we tell them with sufficient vigor and repetition. But losing both of you? How would it look to the world if we were to lose both national heroes? That would be tough to spin. Gaiastan would look most unexceptional if you two were both to survive the trials of your space odyssey only to succumb to death by cannibals. No, losing you both simply cannot be allowed. Be reasonable and don’t worry about it too much.”

“You’ll reformat my brain. And you’ll recondition D’naia. And you’ll turn our child into one of you.”

“It’s not your child, Indigo. Children belong to the village. They belong to Gaiastan. And if we want to get technical, the little proto human she carries in her womb is not even human, yet. It’s so irrational to get emotionally attached to a thing.”

“We’re not going back with you,” Indigo declared.

“I’m afraid it’s absolutely necessary. Be pragmatic, Indigo. Try to understand.”

Mr. Lever shivered faintly in his oxblood overcoat as he spoke. His hairless body and thin blood offered little resistance to the winter morning of the wilderness. He yearned to be back in the luxurious confines of his habitation cube… or even better, on a North Atlantican beach wrapped in a heating thermal and sipping a mojito. “Motherland Security is near,” he warned. “Resistance is futile. Don’t make me call them in. I prefer a much more personal and civilized approach to things. There’s no need to manage this situation by blunt force.”

“What’s going on?” asked D’naia who had just awoken and raised her head from Indigo’s lap.

“We’re still not going,” Indigo answered as he clung to D’naia. She quickly deduced the situation.

Lever sighed which triggered a short bout of coughing within him. “Pardon me. I seem to have come down with something. This climate disagrees terribly with my constitution.” Lever took a moment to clear his throat. He continued, “Indigo, must we resort to bargaining? It’s so un-Overman to wheel-and-deal over a matter such as this. Okay, fine. Let me make you an offer. Consider that we can make things easier for you. We’ll get you access to all the comforts. You can even have electricity twelve hours per day, uninterrupted… How about meat? Three times per week even. Does that not appeal to you? No? Aha. I got it. Need I appeal to your vanity, then? How about this: we’ll give you a substantial bump in rank. How does fifteenth degree sound? No? Okay. Okay. How about sixteen? Yes, a rank of sixteen should do it.”

“What will he care about wealth or degree?” D’naia shouted. “His mind’ll be erased. He won’t remember anything. Who knows if you’ll even keep your bargain.”

“I take umbrage at insults from an undermen princess.”

“Don’t call me princess. If you call me princess again I’ll shove your reptoid face right into that fire.”

Lever sighed again, cocking the hammer on his pearl handled revolver. “I try…,” he lamented, looking around as if he was making a confession to the trees. “I try to nudge these people into doing the right things but they just won’t do what they should. They’re hopeless.”

“Who are you talking to?” Joe Hannan interrupted as he stirred the coals.

“God, I suppose. What form is He taking today? The Great Spirit of the wilderness?” Lever mocked. “Oh Great Spirit, please hear my prayer. Please make these selfish, polluting heathens see the right path. Leadeth them unto reason and righteousness. Please help me, Oh Lord. But if I be of unrighteous spirit, please have me turn this pistol towards my head and blast my brains out. Oh hear my prayer.” Lever chuckled. His chuckle morphed into a laugh, then a wild-eyed cackle, then another coughing fit. When he had regained his composure, he addressed the man bear. “You see, Joe Hannan? There is no God. Or if there is, then he is on my side.”

“God does not take sides with anyone who will not take sides with him.”

“Fine. Then he doesn’t exist. You want to see God, Joe Hannan? Then look at me. I am a God… I am the all powerful immortal, the only one you will ever know.”

“Man cannot become divine,” Joe Hannan replied. “You are just a man, a man holding a gun.”

“And don’t forget a man with a hovercraft and a dozen agents of Motherland Security at his beckon. Maybe I should call in my disciples.”

“They’re not disciples, they’re mercenaries. They’ll turn on you when their paychecks stop.”

“But they’ll never stop, Joe Hannan.” Lever turned back to Indigo. “Won’t you please, please listen to reason, Indigo? I’m giving you one last chance. I admit that, yes, your mind will be erased and reset with your consciousness from just after your re-entry, but this shouldn’t be a bother. You’ll still be you… just restored to an uncorrupted version. Think of it as waking up from a bad dream that is soon swept away from memory. Listen, Indigo. You will live like a king. You’ll have a fully furnished habitation cube. You’ll have all the comforts… air conditioning, surveillance free periods, flesh and blood prostitutes even. Don’t be foolish. Think of it as doing your duty for Gaiastan. Besides, do you really think a group of cannibals out there is going to take you in? This thing, this savage named Joe Hannan is leading you to your doom. Your state of existence with his tribe of humates will be pathetic at best. Look at yourself. You are being lead by a drunken lunatic dressed in a bearskin and a tinfoil hat. So what if a few months of your memories are deleted? What does it matter? You’ll be reset back to a more comfortable thread of existence. It will still be you, Indigo, just a happier, less conflicted, more contented you. Think about the future. Think about Gaiastan. Gaiastan needs you.”

Indigo turned to Joe Hannan. “What are we going to do?”

The man bear smiled as he poked at the fire.

“‘We’ are going to do nothing. There is no more ‘we’,” Joe Hannan said. “My journey with you is finished, Indigo. But you should not fear anything. You will go with him for now. He will try to take you and D’naia back to Gaiastan but he will fail. Don’t worry. Even when it looks as if the devil may destroy everything, do not give up hope. Staley will come for you. He will rescue you and D’naia and your unborn child. Evil will never triumph so long as you have faith.”

“This talk about the devil is starting to bore me,” Lever interrupted. He raised his revolver, pointed it at Joe Hannan’s chest and pulled the trigger. A puff of blue smoke rose into the air. The man bear exhaled a long breath as the echo of the shot rang through the morning air and the startled ravens. Joe Hannan fell back against a tree trunk, his eyes wide. He quietly held his bleeding.

Indigo was paralyzed with terror. He could not even cry out or run to Joe Hannan’s aide. He looked into Joe Hannan’s dying eyes and saw deeply into his soul. Indigo bore witness to the man bear’s expression of deep understanding and inner peace. Joe Hannan smiled as his life passed out of his body.

 

 

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Gaiastan, Chapter 17

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Chapter 17

For Indigo and D’naia, it was not easy to prepare for travel. D’naia’s pregnancy was beginning to show and, although she was strong, Indigo was discomforted by the idea of dragging her out into the wild lands where cannibals and other carnivores lurked. Despite Staley’s assurances, Indigo hadn’t fully disavowed his ‘humates are cannibals’ prejudice. The prospect of danger weighed heavily on them both but they did not speak much about it while they prepared. They believed Staley when he said it wasn’t safe to stay.

On the night of that most unusual Sabbath, when Staley entered the temple, turned over the Chalice of Life, and spilt the Blood of Sacrifice, the man bear visited Indigo and D’naia. They were ready to leave with him so he led them into the wild lands under the cover of night and cold.

Neither Indigo nor D’naia had ever ventured far out into the wild lands. For the first couple of kilometers, Indigo’s eyes anxiously scanned blindly in the darkness for stalking beasts and flesh eating savages. His ears processed every sound, every creak of a branch, every snap of a stone, every crunch of a dried leaf trampled underfoot. D’naia stayed on his arm, shivering as they walked, hearing the groan of phantom wolves carried on every breeze.

Joe Hannan was undeterred by fear of flesh eating things in the night. He kept a brisk pace, moving along the faint trail in the darkness by memory, even advising his companions when to duck under unseen branches and take care around unseen ledges. He had traveled the paths for many years and knew them by feel and timing.

Indigo and D’naia did everything they could to keep up. But soon, the relentless pace exhausted them. Their weariness of the cold and the pains in their feet became their singular focus, finally even drowning out their fears of the beasts of the night.

They walked for perhaps four hours before finally stopping for the night under a stony alcove. Joe Hannan started a fire with the flames obscured to hovercraft and satellites by a hastily arranged lean-to of pine branches. He offered the couple roasted pine nuts and insects skewered on a twig, but Indigo and D’naia both declined. Exhausted, D’naia fell asleep on Indigo’s shoulder. The fire warmed her and her shivering subsided.

“So how long have you been out here?” Indigo asked Joe Hannan whose teeth closed with a crackle on the husk of a char broiled beetle.

“I’ve been out here for thirty years,” he grunted, spitting out a tiny leg that clung to his lip as he spoke.

“Where were you before you came out here?”

Joe Hannan reached into his satchel and removed a wineskin, which he uncorked and squeezed, releasing the contents into his mouth.

“I was with Them,” he answered, as he handed Indigo the skin.

“You were an Overman?”

“Indeed,” he replied, as he pulled the head off another insect and impaled it on his stick.

“What degree were you?”

Joe Hannan chuckled. “Everything boils down to degree, doesn’t it? A human being, all his experiences and knowledge, all his life and friends and enemies, all his talents and weaknesses and passions, all of that… boiled down into one dimension… a single number… a degree.” He laughed.

“I apologize if I’ve offended you.”

“You didn’t offend me. If you must know, I was a very high degree for my age… twenty first degree by twenty five years old.”

That’s a fine rank for such a young man.”

Joe Hannan spit. “I was no man. I was a fraud, a facade… I was just a boy… a boy with power and prestige. That’s a dangerous combination.”

“How so,” Indigo asked, as he fumbled around in the dark for a twig.

“What’s your rank?” Joe Hannan redirected. “Twelve?”

“Thirteen, actually,” Indigo replied.

“Yeah. You can get good at guessing a person’s degree based upon the things they are interested in. At thirteenth degree, you are just beginning to understand.”

“Understand?”

Joe Hannan stared into the fire. The rippling light cast his haggard face in gold and shadow. He wore the look of a shaman… dark, mysterious and grim. Doom danced in the flickering fire reflected in his black eyes. He did not look at Indigo when he spoke. He looked through him… as if he were speaking to a phantom of Indigo’s very soul who was seated just behind his physical body. “Do you remember when you were just getting in? Do you remember what a big deal it was?”

“Yes! Confirmation is one of life’s most important moments.”

“It is a defining moment. It rearranges ones thinking. To be confirmed… to be accepted into the club… to be initiated. It meant everything to me as a thirteen year old. I remember it well. A 1st degree meant that you went to the front of the line in school. That you got extra helpings. That you went to special classrooms. That you had access to privileges that the others did not like hot water and computer programs and laundry service. Do you remember that? And then, when you got a job, do you remember the pay raises that came with each successive rank? Remember the added perks and the benefits and all the new friends? Transportation passes, wine vouchers, real prostitutes, not the holograms but the real deal…?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then, after a while, the privileges and newness of being an Overman began to wear off.”

“More or less, I suppose.”

“So you needed more. It wasn’t enough to have access and stuff, you wanted to have power, too… power over others. You wanted influence, prestige. But you had to get a higher degree to get that. So you worked harder to get noticed by the higher ones. And after many late nights and many times prostrating yourself, you finally got promoted. You broke through to sixth, seventh, eighth degree…”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sure when you diverged into the space program… I imagine seventh degree?”

“That’s right, seventh.”

“So you were probably four years into the system by then. That’s about when it starts to come into focus. That’s when They begin to see what your future will be. You see, Indigo, They don’t really care about the low-ranking schlock at the bottom. There are millions of them. They comprise the spawning pool, if you will. But the ones that have the ‘talent’ to move up into ‘middle management’, as they say, rise above the schlock right away. They can tell quickly; one, two, three years in and they know. They still make them earn it but They know what they’re going to amount too. They know what you’ll become even better than you do.

You and I, Indigo, we did something to get noticed early on and so They brought us up. And when you got to the next level of degrees, eight, nine, ten, twelve, it becomes about more than just the next management responsibility. It gets deeper than that. You know what I mean?”

“Yes. It becomes about the degree, itself.”

Joe Hannan threw another branch on the fire. “You know, when you are single digits you are still low enough to reconcile the things you are asked to do with your own morality. You can square contradictory things and compartmentalize what you see and not be too troubled by it. You’re just following orders, you tell yourself. You don’t fully understand the reasons why… which is an assurance. You trust the higher ones giving the orders. You trust them because you want to impress them with your loyalty. Why would They have you do something ungreen? You reason.

“But you didn’t get as far as I did, Indigo. You got detoured. They strapped you onto that nuke and launched you to Mars and that mission steered you right off the Overman track.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I was ranked eighteen I had done quite well, better than any I had known along the way. But I started to have doubts. Why was I being asked to do the things I did? Why were my errors always forgiven? I had access to people— connections and such— that I did nothing to earn by any merit or effort. I never had to fear so long as I showed up and followed instructions reasonably well. But those instructions were becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile with my inner morality.

“It is all about loyalty in the middle degrees, but the lower people I destroyed in order to please the higher people were beginning to haunt me. That doesn’t mean that I had a special conscience or anything… just that I was haunted by my actions like anyone else would be. I was human.

“Way back in the day, they used to try to wash morality clean out of children’s minds at school but it never quite worked the way they intended. They’d teach that there is no morality, that everything is relative. They’d obfuscate the line between right and wrong. They smashed the moral compass because, when a person can’t decipher right from wrong, he can be made to do anything.

“Yet too many still grew up with a conscience… The conscience is what Staley calls ‘the spirit’. It was frustrating for the elites but eventually They just accepted human nature as it is— imperfectable.

“Every Overman goes through the moral struggle, Indigo. Every one… unless they’re a sociopath,” Joe Hannan laughed. “They groom the sociopaths for politics and Motherland Security. They give the afflicted ones, like you and me, money and prestige which begets the fear of losing it. And that motivates you to stay in the system… in the Paradigm. But for those who want to go still higher, they are lured by something else entirely.”

“What is it?” Indigo asked as he reached for Joe Hannan’s bowl of insects.

“Like I said, in the middle ranks, they pull you along with the lure of prestige. In the latter ranks, it’s about ‘knowledge’— knowledge that is desired by the candidate and knowledge that They have about the candidate. Let me try to explain it to you this way: When you get to the twentieth degree, or so, everyone ranked below you will hang on your every command. That’s prestige. I could talk gibberish for an hour and hold an audience of schlock clinging to my every meaningless word as if it were the progression of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. They called it ‘ethos’ in the ancient days.

“But that’s not enough to lure one into the high degrees, Indigo. Only the lure of knowledge and the fear of what others know can do that. Knowledge is the bait and fear is the prod. You yearn for more knowledge than the rendered scraps they feed you when you’re in middle management. So they begin to show you things in exchange for you doing things. They have you do things that have been rumored— spectacular things, terrible things— and piece by piece, the mind-altering gnosos is revealed.”

“Like what?” Indigo asked, as he pushed a beetle onto his stick point and extended it into the fire for roasting.

“Like the doctrine. Like the application of evolutionary ethics… Unified Gaian Ethics. It teaches that there are no rights or wrongs, only selections and rejections. Those that are selected thus cannot be wrong. They may do as they will.

“They revealed to me the grand plan. It is ancient, maybe even seventy thousand years in the making. I don’t know for sure. I know it was designed before Sumer. They fed me the details of it slowly so my conscience and consciousness could acclimate. And they had me do vile things to earn each additional morsel of gnosos.”

“Like what?”

“Vile, vile things, Indigo. Things that cannot be forgiven or even explained. You are made to degrade yourself in the process of your advancing. That’s the prod. That’s how they whip you along. If you hesitate, you will be made the victim next time. You will be exposed and shamed and cast out or worse, disappeared. So you just go along, lured and prodded by each level of gnosos.

“A brain can rationalize anything. Your old remnant morality is eventually burned off with ceremonies and symbols of torture, rape, and murder. You’ll do all of it and, soon enough, you’ll believe that it’s even righteous to do it. I was rapidly evolving at that stage. You have too or you’ll be destroyed. They don’t demote anyone.

“You get to the point where your brain can no longer reconcile to any morality other than evolutionary selection. You adopt the new ethics. It is the opposite of everything they teach to the low degrees and the undermen. They teach the schlock about planetary spirits and collectivism. To the schlock, the Paradigm is the hive. They submit themselves to ambiguous concepts like the ‘greater good’, whatever the hell that means. But to the higher degrees, to the rulers, it is a different perspective.

“Once you achieve the high degrees, the only way to reconcile the dissonance in your mind is to accept that you are different than those below you. You must accept that you are now the elite and that the moral framework and rules you ascribe to the low-ranking schlock and the undermen and the savages that live in the DZ no longer apply to you. You become above morality, above judgment and reproach because you were selected. The rules are for the low, the worker bees, not for you. You come to understand that it is all necessary for you to think this way and that you are not a hypocrite for believing it. You are not a hypocrite because you were selected.”

Indigo pulled out his beetle from the fire to inspect its charred shell. It wasn’t quite done.

“They show you the complete Gaian Paradigm, but not before they think you have already figured it out on your own… that you’ve already come to the same conclusion as them in your own mind. Then you see the Paradigm laid out before you and it’s like you knew it all along. You accept it entirely because their presentation of it just confirms what you already knew. At that point, you have arrived. You are a true Overman. You are the elite.”

“What is the Gaian Paradigm?’

“They.”

“They what?”

“‘They’ are the Paradigm. What They believe is the Paradigm. How They live. What They think. What They plan for the future. It’s Their plan. Their goals. It is the mind of man stripped of all the pretenses and complexes and anxieties of his inner primate. To them, it is the reborn mind rising above the animal brain.

“They acknowledge one truth, that there is but one goal of man: immortality. But to them, there is no God. To them, God is a myth. God is a tool, invented by kings to get their serfs to police themselves, to toil their lives away for a pittance and then die of starvation or on some battlefield fighting some other poor serf of a rival king. To them, an external God is a lie. To them, God is within.”

“Do you believe in God, Joe Hannan?”

“I do.”

“Gaia?”

“No, not how they propose it. Gaianism is just another tool of control. If you ask me: is the earth a single living organism? I think so… yes. Is it intelligent? Not in any sense that you or I can possibly comprehend. But we are her children, like everything else alive. She made us. We fret about defiling the earth in this way or that, but that’s just our arrogance. She has been through far worse than us. If the earth is the expression of God, then we were made for a purpose, one that we cannot fully comprehend. Maybe we were put here to warm it. I don’t know. I do know that a man can no more destroy Gaia than could Nimrod climb the tower of Babel and shoot out God’s eye with an arrow. The earth gave us life and the earth can take it away just the same. She does not judge you or I, we’re a part of her. She just is. And when the time is right, men will be moved by her to do her bidding.

“They elites have used many gods as tools of control throughout time. They showed me the history of the world going back, way, way back, three hundred and fifty thousand years. Before the Greeks. Before the Egyptians. Before the Sumerians. Way, way, way back. Through the last Ice Age. Through cataclysms of flood and fire. They said this history was burned up in the library of Alexandria but it survived. They were the ones who burned the library so they could possess and control the knowledge themselves. They show you the theme of God, the same theme replayed: The earthly and the ethereal, heaven and hell, sin and redemption, death and resurrection. The corruption by the impure Eve and the redemption by the virgin Mother. All of it replayed, over and over, replayed throughout time. Different religions in name only.

“They say there is no God, Indigo, only the immortal Overman. They say that man makes his own gods. Overman is his own God, immortal yet in the flesh. Not a virtual immortality in the cybernetic ether, but a flesh and blood forever-life. This is what they showed me, Indigo.”

“How are they immortal but in the flesh?”

“That’s the question that was answered to me when I had my moment of doubt. I wanted it, Indigo. I wanted immortality of the flesh. I thought I was ready for it. But I wasn’t. I fooled them into thinking my conscience and undermen morality had been completely burned off— that I was a clean slate. But I was lying. I fooled them and they revealed to me the gnosos too soon. I took the fruit from the tree of knowledge of life and death, Indigo. I wanted to be them, to know the complete truth. They practically handed it to me. But I was not ready to digest it. It was like poison.”

“What did you see?” Indigo asked as he pulled the beetle out of the fire and slid it off the stick.

“I saw how immortality in the flesh was achieved. I saw it with my own eyes.”

“How?” Indigo asked as he raised the insect to his lips.

“They believe the brain and the mind are one. They believe the brain is the vessel of the soul. The mind resides in the synaptic network that spins throughout the folds of the brain. But they’re wrong, Indigo. Your brain is just a piece of hardware, Indigo. You’ve seen them download consciousness. You’ve downloaded yours. You’ve spoken to virtual beings, but virtual beings are not human. Humans are flesh and bone. Humans are a physical experience. And so They need bodies, Indigo. The elites need replacement bodies to continue as immortals.”

“Why can’t they just use genetic engineering or something to extend their lives?”

“Life is a chaotic system. You’re fighting exponential math when you attack the problem at the cellular level. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stay ahead of the compounding array of broken genes and mortality switches. Even if you could, you’d set the host organism on some unmanageable tangent as it develops into a monster. It’s impossible.”

“So what do they do?”

“They take new bodies, Indigo. They take a candidate and they wipe their brain and then they rewire it with the consciousness of the Overman. They live forever, Indigo. They are immortal parasites.”

Indigo’s teeth crushed through the charred shell of the insect.

“They can’t use babies or even children. Puberty and hormones throw too many unknowns into the equation. They don’t want to morph into something different. They want to hold on to their understanding and perspective of life. They like bodies between thirty and forty years old. They take their bodies, wipe their brains, and inject their consciousness directly into them. It’s just an upload routine. A brain is just fleshy hardware. Once they figured out how to control synaptic growth, it all became an exercise in pico-engineering.”

“And so this is why you left? You were horrified by it?”

“It was a combination of my remnant morality not being able to reconcile erasing another’s mind so that I might take over his body. I could not see it as anything but murder. I could not reconcile it. But it’s worse than that. I killed for them, before, so it was more than just that. For me, it was the realization that their Paradigm is a lie.

“Indigo, your locket is not a portal to the afterlife. Yes, they can download your consciousness. They can store your memories and loves and hatreds and desires and fears and they can upload them into a virtual heaven when you die. But it’s not you, Indigo. That’s the realization I had. What is resurrected in the virtual afterlife is not you.”

“But I’ll remember my life so it will be me.”

“No. It’s only a computer algorithm that remembers, not you. You are dead. Only an algorithm keeps running, adding chapters to a diary you started.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Of course you do. You always knew it. You just didn’t want to accept it.”

“Is that why Staley sent you… to tell me this?”

“No.”

“Then why? To save my life?”

“In part. They intend to bring the old you back because you are not going along in accordance with their plan. They need their heroes, Indigo. They need their heroes because they are useful for promoting their agenda… their Paradigm.”

“They’re going to reformat me?”

“Of course. I’m sure they have a download of you from just after your splashdown. They’ll erase your brain and they’ll re-load it. The reformatted version of you will, of course, never be allowed to come anywhere near here.”

“And what of D’naia?”

“She’s an excellent candidate for reconditioning. Her mind will be wiped and an Overman’s will be uploaded into it.”

“And our child?”

“You’re both of good stock. D’naia is a high achiever. They were never going to let her make it at University. That was impossible. But she impressed them. She’s smart and beautiful and you are a spaceman so your progeny is acceptable. Your child will be raised in a crèche, given comforts, developed physically, protected from disease, but kept in a state of mental retardation for thirty years. Then one night, while she sleeps, she will be put under. Her mind will be wiped clean and she too will be reconditioned, uploaded with the consciousness of some dying Overman.”

“I have to go back! I need to tell others! We need to fight this!”

“Staley is already there for that. There are very few who will listen, but he has warned them.”

“But we need to get weapons and fight them!”

Joe Hannan laughed. “There is no ‘fighting’ them… at least not in that way. They are too powerful. I suppose you could take out a handful of them with a suicide bomb but that wouldn’t accomplish anything other than end your life prematurely. Hell, they’re collectivists. They preach self-sacrifice. They invented the ultimate scam of you dying for their cause. They’d probably be quite flattered by your sacrifice, misguided though it was. So you’d kill a handful and they would just be reloaded into new bodies. All that would result in a ruthless reprisal against your community or family.”

“Then what can we do?”

“The only thing we can. We withdraw.”

“What do you mean?”

“We withdraw from the world ruled by the Overman. We nullify them. We become all that they oppose. They are the secular so we must become the spiritual. They refute God so we must embrace Him. They control the cities thus we must control the wilds. They are the cult of the collective thus we must be the vanguard of the individual. They live by coercion thus we must live by cooperation. They rule by command so we must coexist by virtue. We must survive without the need of them. Slowly, more will find us and come to us and withdraw their consent from Them. And as our numbers grow, their prestige and power will diminish.”

“So how do we win?”

“It’s a progression, Indigo. When they resort to mass violence we will know we are close to victory.” Joe Hannan uncorked his wineskin and took another drink. He didn’t have anything else to say.

As Joe Hannan neared inebriated slumber, Indigo moved D’naia’s head off his shoulder and made his way into the woods to breathe and to think. Being in the dark, cold wilderness at night reminded him of the mission to Mars. He contemplated the infinite as he stood there like he used to staring out the Astarte’s portal. How similar it seemed… he, on the edge of the arc of the campfire light, the cocoon of survival, the heat and light a shield against the cold and whatever beasts lurked just beyond the edge of darkness.

That which was to be feared was out there, just beyond, stalking, coming in to examine the peculiar humans who had invaded their world. Indigo sensed the presence of the savage beasts. The world of the wild is a screaming terror, he imagined. Every instant was a battle for survival. Survival required becoming acutely skilled at surviving. There were no benefactors out there, no Overman officials to disperse daily rations. Maybe this fear is why so many remained as slaves.

The Overman had adopted the animal’s ethics of survival. So what made them better than animals, he pondered. Why must one become an animal in order to transcend humanity?

There are no savage beasts a hundred million kilometers from earth. Yet it struck Indigo that the edge of the firelight was not unlike the thin titanium skin of the Astarte. Within its confines were warmth, air, and water. Beyond it lay the terror of annihilation.

The Astarte was a womb of safety but it was stifling. The sanctuary collapsed slowly by cumulative system failure. The capsule preserved life but at a cost of unrelenting, growing despair amongst the crew. Survival in the space can required a slavery of the mind. Indigo finally understood why Hurtzweil launched himself into infinity wearing only his underpants.

Whether one’s life is quelled by the fangs of a pack of wolves or one has their life sucked out by the vacuum of space, the result, at least from the victim’s perspective, is the same. Indigo felt Hurtzweil’s compulsion. He too had an urge to run out into the darkness and offer himself to the beasts of the night.

 

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Gaiastan, Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

On the Sabbath, the folk of Hegeltown gathered in the temple in the manner of their religious custom. As the good people claimed their parcels of pew and reviewed the order of service printed on recycled paper, many whispering conversations could be overheard discussing the town’s new Overman visitor, Mr. Lever. Many wondered what he was up to going around house to house and asking questions about the missing spacemen. It was very strange— terrifying even— and provided much fodder for gossip. Rumors circulated that he slept hanging by his ankles and bore no reflection in mirrors and floated from rooftop to rooftop in the dead of night.

You can imagine their surprise when Mr. Lever himself showed up for the Sabbath services! He appeared before the congregation at the entry end of the nave, derby in hand, scalp and eyebrows freshly shoven, resplendent in his finely embroidered oxblood coat. He stood so very tall and lean, his shoulders were so broad, and his posture was so well-framed compared to the paunchy, slumping undermen of the village. He exuded pure, symmetrical, hairless, elite Overmanity. The twisted, stunted, shaggy undermen of the village were in total awe.

Mr. Lever made his way down the aisle with purposeful strides. The hand-shielded gossiping immediately ceased as he passed each pew. All heads affixed his direction but no eyes dared lock upon his as no one wanted to be remembered by a Sunstein Agent or have their spirit sucked out. Anonymity was always in a serf’s best interest around any high officials.

Mr. Lever stopped about half way, looked down at the proles sitting on the edge of their pew, un-staring back at him with their averted eyes. He beckoned the serf at the end to allow him entry with the most subtlest of gestures and faintest of grins. Ample enough for Overman, the subtlety was entirely lost on the serf blocking his way into the pew as he was mesmerized by something of a mixture of shock and awe. The spell was broken when Lever cleared his throat with a growl followed by another faintly pleasant grin. The undermen parishioner reluctantly let him in to take a seat, praying he didn’t sit next to him, but to his dismay, Lever did, taking the spot adjacent to him on the aisle.

The palpable tension brought on by Mr. Lever’s presence was broken by the entrance of the children of the village crèche who were led down the center aisle by their patron. What good, cute, little obedient fetuses they each made— children were considered to be fetuses only and not humans until obtaining the age of four. It was proven to mathematical certainty by Gaian bio-ethicists that the quantitative threshold of humanity, defined as self-awareness, was not achieved until that exact age. Three years and 364 days = fetus. Three years and 365 days = human being. No one ever dared question high-minded, scientistic conclusions, especially those drawn by official State scientists.

The cute little proto-humans, with their compressed facial features and disproportionately sized child-heads, remained perfectly disciplined as they marched in file, interconnected by a tether that fastened to each one’s fuzzy, teddy bear, taser bracelet. They took seats in a reserved row, little legs dangling above the floor in the aisle opposite of where Mr. Lever sat.

The acolytes emerged from behind the dais and lit the ceremonial candles. Then the priest emerged. Turning to kneel before the eye tapestry, he gave a silent prayer and marked the air with the ‘V’ and then an upside down ‘V’. He stood before the altar and began the opening prayers. The congregation rose and joined in.

Lever didn’t know the prayers as he was unfamiliar with undermen superstitions. He stood silent but respectful. Lever had no spirituality, in any traditional sense, unless you count his spiritual affinity for shaving and his sense of duty to the State which, unlike undermen theology, was very real and also eternal.

The townsfolk assumed Mr. Lever to be, like all other Overman, a Secular Gaianist which was a source of suspicion to them. But their inherent suspicion towards the hairless, atheist Sunstein Agent began to thaw with his presence at the service. Most knew that he was just pandering for their good will so as to lubricate their confessions which were so necessary to his investigation, but their amenability towards him was greatly enhanced by his deference. The undermen wanted to believe in the possibility that he could somehow be converted and become a born again Gaiastolic. However absurd that likelihood was, its possibility engendered their goodwill toward him. Mr. Lever played on this. He knew undermen were simpleton fools.

The service lumbered on towards its pinnacle— the Rite of Communal Sacrifice— and the eunuch priest finally disrobed and opened up his veins, sacrificing his blood on the behalf of his sinful flock so that their pollutions might be forgiven.

 

That’s when a most unexpected event ever to occur in the village of Hegeltown happened…

 

In the doorway, at the entry of the nave, silhouetted by the late morning sun, stood the shadow of a man heavily adorned. Slowly, one by one, the congregation sensed him and turned to see him. As they spotted him, they alerted their neighbors who turned their eyes back from the blood-letting to investigate the oddity as well. Mr. Lever’s appearance was quite remarkable and cause for gossip and terror but this appearance was somehow of a different magnitude altogether.

The service stopped and the shadow man stepped forth from the blinding backlight of the doorway, out of the shadows and into the aisle. The light of the day was blotted out by the slamming shut of the church doors behind him. He was finally revealed to them all.

 

It was the spaceman.

 

He wore his complete astronaut’s suit including the helmet with the flash visor pulled down. He took long, slow strides, almost as if he were walking in low gravity. Step. Step. Step. The eyes of the undermen followed him as he plodded down the aisle. Step. Step. Step.

Even Mr. Lever’s eyebrowless eyes latched on. Lever didn’t like the looks of things— and liked to be upstaged even less— but he was not exactly sure what to do about it. The disrobed, eunuch priest watched too, bewildered, mouth agape, still squeezing his hands into fists and pumping his Blood of Sacrifice out into the Chalice of Life.

Drip… drip… drip.

Step… Step… Step.

Drip… drip… drip.

Step… Step… Step.

The spaceman continued towards the altar, past the first row of pews and to the foot of the dais and its low pyramid of three steps. The spaceman did not say any prayers to the embroidered eye or kneel or gesture in a ‘V’.

“Heresy!” someone shouted.

The spaceman took one step up and the eyes of the bleeding priest widened.

“Blasphemer!” shrieked another.

Then another step.

A two year old fetus let out a cry which was quickly muffled by her patron’s taser blast which sent the proto-human into silent seizure.

Then a third step.

Mr. Lever’s hand found its way down into his embroidered, oxblood coat to the stock of his pearl handled revolver.

The spaceman reached out to the eunuch gently, so as not to startle him, and placed the priest’s thumbs over both his pulsating veins. The spaceman carefully removed the needles from the priest’s arms. He bent the priest’s arms up at the elbows, applying pressure to seal up the wounds.

“I have been waiting for you,” the priest whispered as his eyes filled with tears.

The spaceman turned him around to face away from the congregation. He reached down and picked up the priest’s robes and covered him with them. The priest began to weep and the spaceman comforted him.

“Your work is done,” the spaceman said. He placed his hand upon the priest’s shoulder, and with a gentle nudge, he sent him away, back into the chamber behind the dais. The chamber door closed and the spaceman was at last alone at the altar. He was in total command of the congregation.

The crowd, save for the prior outbursts, was utterly silent, anticipating the spaceman’s next move.

Mr. Lever’s index finger slid into position on the trigger.

The spaceman turned to the flock which was still frozen, fearing whatever was to come next, which was, in all likelihood, death by neutron burst or poison gas or something equally and horribly spectacular.

Lever’s thumb found the hammer on his pearl handled revolver.

The spaceman raised his gloved hands to his head and twisted off the latches securing his helmet. He lifted it up off his head and placed the dome on the altar next to the Chalice of Life which was nearly-filled with the priest’s Blood of Sacrifice.

What the crowd saw was, at first, an unrecognized man, a man with a long, bearded face and wavy hair. His skin was tanned and his locks were bleached by the autumn sun. His pupils were black voids that popped against their brilliant iris like sunspots.

Then they recognized him. It was the lunatic spaceman who had disappeared from Hegeltown. It was Staley, raised from the dead and standing before them now. Staley, who was devoured by cannibals, had returned as a ghost to terrorize them with poison gas! Several screams ripped through the nave upon this realization. Some started to rouse and make their way out.

“Be still!” Staley commanded in a booming voice that sent each and every one back into silent, fixated paralysis before the echoes of his order had even diminished.

Lever watched, contemplating… calculating…. anticipating…

“You know who I am,” Staley continued. “I have come to you to bring you a message. The message is from the new world. Not a world a billion kilometers from Gaia, but a world right here, around you… and within you. I have come from this new world.

“I went into the wilderness to lose my life but instead I found it. It has been said that it is necessary to lose one’s life in order to find it. I died and I was born again on that very same day. I was reborn into this new world… a world of the living.

“Look around you. What do you see? I’ll tell you what you see. You see an old world… a decaying world… a world built by and for the dead. You see stone hearts and blind eyes and deaf ears and sewn mouths. You see shackles and mausoleums and men in purple dress. You can look and look but you won’t see the living because you will not let your eyes see. Well I say to those who see this old world as a corpse that you are truly blessed. For if you see this world as a corpse, then this world is not worthy of you. And I say to those who have ears, let them hear! For if you seek life then there is life! There is life in the new world of which I speak.

“This new world is a world where no man is less or more than another… no man is another’s slave. It is a world of one law, one rule, one virtue: do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. Nothing more than that. And from this simple virtue springs the fountain of life. I come to you to tell you of this world. It is near you. It is even within you. Open your eyes and let yourself see it.”

Staley stopped his sermon and stared directly into Mr. Lever’s eyes which caught the Sunstein Agent off guard. His hairless eyebrows rose in response, showing disbelief and confusion, while he slowly, covertly removed his pistol from its holster, keeping it hidden under his coat.

Staley continued. “I tell you this, no man escapes judgment. No man may take another as a slave without the judgment of the spirit. I promise you that. I tell you that no man may turn over his brother who is blameless to the Agents without judgment. And no man may steal from his neighbor without judgment. And I tell you that no man may erase another man’s mind without judgment. And no man may take another man’s life without judgment.

“I promise you that Judgment Day is coming. It is coming for us all. We all shall see the Judgment Day as our ends are inevitable. Your end is your Judgment Day and my end is my Judgment Day. And I tell those who will hear it that these warnings are true and judgment will be visited upon the master and the minion and the slave all the same. Repent and make good with your neighbor before judgment is reaches you.

“But I did not come here today to judge for I am not The Judge. I came here only to give you this message. I came here to warn the vicious ones that vengeance will be poured out upon those who have sent their neighbors to the slaughterhouse.

“Judgment is coming for all, but those who repent shall be forgiven. And to those who seek shelter in the new world it shall be given. And to those who remain in the old world but resist the demands of the vicious shall be shown mercy. But to those who aid the devil in his works and do not change their ways… they will not be forgiven. They will be erased… denied their immortality. And this goes for all classes of men: Overman and undermen, and savage, too; for, as I said, your caste will not protect you from judgment.

“This is my message to you. It is a warning. Hear it, for life is fleeting and your end is nigh.”

And with that, Staley picked up his space helmet, kneeled, and lowered it down onto his head as if he were Napoleon crowning himself emperor. Then he stood up again and turned to the Chalice of Life and lifted it from the altar and raised it high above his head with both gloved hands.

Mr. Lever rose up from his pew and made his way toward Staley.

Staley turned to the parish.

Mr. Lever removed his pistol and aimed it at Staley’s heart.

Staley remained, unflinching, unafraid, holding the Blood of Sacrifice aloft.

And when Mr. Lever was at point blank range, three steps below while Staley held up the Chalice of Life, Lever pulled the trigger of his pearl handled revolver…

 

…but the bullet did not slay him.

 

Lever pulled back the hammer and pulled the trigger again and again but the spaceman did not fall. Lever backed away, helplessly, cautiously, but in complete shock and awe. The elite Overman suddenly looked frail and terrified and mortal to the undermen in the congregation.

Staley continued, unaffected by the bullets. “Lift up your hearts and release your minds from bondage. Do this, I say, and you shall be saved!”

Then Staley turned over the Chalice of Life, spilling out a fountain of blood which poured forth down the three steps and into the aisle and expanded as a crimson floodwater beneath the pews.

Nine of ten of the congregation fled in terror, making their way in a screaming panic down the center aisle and out the doors and into the dusty street.

 

 

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