Monthly Archives: February 2018

Beyond Three Dimensions

I love #Carl Sagan. He had the keen talent to be able to reduce the complexity of hard science into a form relatable to the human experience. I was riveted by his Cosmos series when I was ten years old. I’m sharing him with my ten year old daughter today.

Here, Sagan describes dimensions beyond our ability to experience and relate by reducing the concept into a 2D model and working it up from there. I can’t help but be enthralled by the possibilities and implications.


Gaiastan, Chapter 24

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Chapter 24


“Your cancer has metastasized.”

These were exactly the words that Mr. Lever had hoped to hear from his physician. What it meant, for the increasingly frail Sunstein Agent, was that he would soon be qualified to take for himself a new vessel.

Lever had been anticipating this day. He looked forward to taking a long sabbatical while he became acquainted with his new physical self. His work was taking its toll, not only on his withering body but upon his psyche as well. He needed a long rest and the transitional phase subsequent to the uploading of his mind into the donor brain was the perfect justification for a long vacation.

It would take many months— years even— to re-master all of the motor skills Lever had come to consider second nature in his old body. Skills like walking and holding a fork and shaving were always taken for granted until after the transference. Some of Lever’s skills were honed over a lifetime in his dying body, skills like firing his precious, pearl handled revolver. Muscle memory is quite literally that… memory. It’s stored in the muscle and transferring it from donor body to vessel body was not something the Gaian scientists had managed to figure out.

Lever decided he would take his post-operative rehab on the beautiful, frigid shores of Upper North Atlantica. There, he could spend his time between physical therapy sessions and workouts, reclining in an Adirondack chair, bundled up in his electric thermal, sipping mojitos and soaking up the vista of tumbling white caps and southbound ice bergs emerging from the ever haze. He could almost taste the mint and the bite of the rum. He could almost hear the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the gray, foamy water breaking on the rocky shore and the gulls squawking overhead. He could almost smell the sea salt and the fishiness on the air. He could almost sense the entire panorama displayed before him… a majestic scene of swirling grays, the blended hues of water and sky. It was all an infinitely banded spectrum of shades of gray.

Lever sighed, longingly, which triggered a bloody coughing fit.

Before his holiday could begin, he would have to close on the purchase of a vessel body. Lever snatched his prescription painkillers and limped out of the clinic, making as much haste for his home cubicle as his moribund body could muster. He had found the perfect underman physique but had refrained from making an offer until his imminent physical demise could be confirmed.

The candidate was aged thirty, convicted of ungreenness— or some such trumped up charge— and brought by cattle car from a small village in Cascadia. The candidate was very fit and tall and sufficiently endowed, free of incurable disease and un-afflicted by any significantly unfavorable genetic predispositions. The new body would need some dental renovation, which was normal for humate candidates, but that was no deal breaker. Lever preferred fixer-uppers, anyway.

Lever might have considered a eugenically engineered candidate, but the costs were still prohibitive for those upper end vessels. Raising them from test tube to gymnasium, slowly ripened to twenty eight years of age, brain dulled into vacancy by a lifespan of omnipresent distraction and over-stimulus, was tempting, but Lever just could not see himself forking over ten times the price for an engineered body. A perfectly serviceable— albeit slightly flawed— undermen model would suffice. A three hundred year habit of personal frugality was hard to undo, even for an elite like Mr. Lever.

Lever hobbled into the tram which whisked him to the foamed aluminum girders that formed the half mile wide base of the arcology within which he resided. He limped to the elevator, by then wheezing, and took it to the 200th floor. From there, he took a local lift down to 198, made his way seventeen doors down the hall and unlocked his cube by biometric scanner. His scanner records were one of many inconvenient things that would have to be changed when he got his new body. What a hassle the transference process can be, he thought.

Lever plunged into his 100 square foot apartment, falling into its only item of furniture, a massive reclining piece that trebled as a chair, bed and toilet and which faced directly towards the black orb of the dormant holovision. He switched on the device with a glance and 360 degree images sprung to life around him.

Mr. Lever, a man of very high degree, could afford a palatial estate if he so desired it. He could live in one replete with separate bathrooms, closets, bedrooms, entertainment centers, porches, observatories, parlors, foyers, antechambers, secret passageways, a dungeon, and even a portcullis and moat, but again… that frugality thing. Eccentricities of a similar nature were not uncommon amongst the Overman ranked above twenty nine. Besides, his Sunstein Order permitted him to be home only maybe fifteen or twenty days per year so he could never really enjoy such extravagances. He grew to prefer the simplicity of his Spartan habitation cube.

Lever located the body he desired on the marketplace and secured it with a gesture transferring 204,000 dianars from his account. No financing required. He stared at his naked future body for over an hour, examining every feature, every flaw that would require renovation. He could not wait to start enjoying his new purchase but he refrained from making reservations at a euthanasia spa. We wanted to experience as close to a natural death as possible.


Three weeks later, Mr. Lever died of renal failure.


…And the very next thing he remembered, he was strapped to a hospital gurney, wearing nothing but a diaper and convulsing and screaming like a psychotic lunatic.

For forty days, a halo, bolted to the sedated, undermen’s head, fired trillions of electromagnetic nano-pulses into his brain matter, stimulating the growth of the neuropathways required to replicate the last download of Lever’s mind. The memories and ideas of the consciousness of Mr. Lever were broken down into fragments of sensation. Those fragments were broken down further into biological bits of information. Then those bits were recreated in the brain of Lever’s new brain by those trillions of pulses. When complete, lab technicians withdrew the halo and waited. The new Mr. Lever lay comatose for three days while the synaptic connections hardened. All that was needed was a final jolt to jumpstart the completely reformatted and reloaded brain… to resurrect the Sunstein Agent.






Not everything comes online in perfect unison after a transference; re-awakenings are usually violent episodes. Many candidates exhibit stroke-like symptoms for several hours. But eventually, after a few electro-magnetic touchups with the halo, the new wineskin finally accepts the old wine.

Lever’s synapses hardened and after another week he was ready to begin his holiday. He was placed on a hover flight to a resort in Upper North Atlantica which he had booked a week before his physical death. Upon arrival, he had the attendants place him in an Adirondack chair on the boardwalk as he could not yet walk. The sights and sounds and smells were exactly as he had envisioned them. The weather was cool and wet. The sun was rarely more than a dull impression behind the haze. The salt breeze blew in from the ocean, filling his new, thirty year old lungs with vigor. Lever sat in his chair in his overcoat and boa and wool blanket, and electric thermal, pearl handled revolver holstered at his side, relaxed and content and ready to begin rehabilitation. He planned to relearn how to draw and shoot as soon as possible.


One day Lever had a visitor.


“Hello, my friend,” called the visitor.

“Hello,” answered Mr. Lever. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m here to see how you’ve been doing, lately. Are you enjoying your rehabilitation?”

“Why yes, of course. Thank you for asking. Please forgive me, but would you mind identifying yourself? Where are you? Are you standing behind me?”

“Oh no. I’m not behind you. I’m right here. Perhaps you are having some after effects of your recent procedure. Synaptic blindness, maybe? Anti-hallucinations? They can cause you to not see things that are there. My understanding is it’s temporary.”

“That seems very odd. I don’t recall anyone mentioning anti-hallucinations as a post-operative side effect. Where did you say you were? Are you in front of me? All I can see is the ocean.”

“Why no, I’m not in front of you. I’m right beside you.”

“Are you Doctor Cameron? I wasn’t expecting you today.”

“No, no. I’m not a doctor. I’m an old friend of yours.”

“Please forgive me. My synapses haven’t fully hardened, yet. Some of my memory is, as of yet, inaccessible. Can you remind me who you are?”

“Never mind that, Mr. Lever. What’s more important is why I am here. I’ve come to be your new life companion. I have a lot to share with you.”

“I haven’t ordered any prostitutes. If I could have a look at you then perhaps we could make some sort of arrangement. Although I’m not sure I am quite fit for any physical…”

“Not that kind of companion, Mr. Lever,” the visitor chuckled. “I mean a companion on a much deeper level than that.”

“Like a life coach or something? I’m in no need of that.”

“Oh, I intend to be much closer than even that.”

“All right. Who are you? I find you to be rude. Have you come to harm me? If so, you should be warned that I am armed.”

“Oh, I know that you are armed, Mr. Lever. And I promise I will not physically harm you. I’ll leave that physical violence stuff entirely to you as you are authorized for it. I just wanted to acquaint myself to you by telling you a little bit about the man whose body you stole…”

“I stole nothing. This candidate was purchased on an official exchange by a licensed dealer. It’s paid for in full.”

“Yet you stole it nonetheless.”

“I’m tired of you. Go away before I call security.”

“Call them if you must but they won’t be able to catch me.”

“Security!” Lever shouted, expecting his order to be picked up by the ubiquitous surveillance equipment.

“He had a name,” the visitor continued.

“Who are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the man whose body you stole.”

“I don’t want to know his name.”

“He had three children.”

“The children have been reassigned to new guardians.”

“He had a mate.”

“Monogamous relationships are illegal for undermen. I demand to know who you are. What do you want from me? Security will be here any moment.” Lever reached down for his pistol and loosened it from its holster.

“You really should be careful with guns, especially in your condition.”

“Who are you?” Lever demanded as he drew it and pointed blindly into the haze.

“You really should not be waving that thing around. Shooting me would be a big mistake.”

“Who are you?”

“Okay. Okay. Easy, there. Put the gun down and I’ll explain everything. We don’t need to get anyone hurt and you’re in no condition to be handling that thing.”

“Who are you?”

“You know me. Think. Search your memories.”

“Don’t play games with me.”

“You brought me in. You had my brain reformatted.”

“No one remembers reformatting. That’s the point.”

“You’re wrong. It can be remembered, so long as there are two versions of the mind. One can then remember the other.”

“Mind cloning is illegal!” Lever barked.

“You got a lot of mileage out of me, Lever. You used me, at least the reformatted me, to sell the Paradigm. Kudos to you. You always get your man. And spacemen make great pitchmen.”


“Yes. It is I.”

“So there are two of you. So what? We got what we needed from you. When we’re finished here, I’ll just have another Agent sent out to have you extinguished.”

Staley laughed. “You’re gonna need more than a Sunstein Agent to extinguish me. There are many more than two of me, now.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“There are hundreds of me, Mr. Lever. Soon thousands! I’m everywhere. I’m omnipresent! God, I love that word.”

“That’s not possible.”

“Yes. Yes it is. It is possible when you exist in Virtuality. When you know how it works, you can drop into the physical world almost whenever you please.”

“You need a host. The costs are too prohibitive. This is a hoax. You’re not Staley. To think I almost fell for this charade. Be gone!”

The two security guards who were approaching heard Lever’s order and, not seeing Lever’s visitor or anything unusual, they took Lever’s “be gone” order to mean them. They returned to their office

“The costs of download are indeed very high,” Staley continued. “So I must thank you for fitting the bill.”

“What do you mean? Are you some sort of thief now as well? Did you rob my account? I’ll have you prosecuted to the fullest extent of the codex.”

“Your new brain must not be firing 100%, yet. I’d have suspected the old Lever would have figured it out by now. Don’t you see?”

“Don’t play games with me.”

“Indulge me. Think. Don’t you understand?”

“Get out of here. Security!”

“I can’t leave, Mr. Lever. Get it?”

Lever waived his pistol into the haze.

“Think about it,” Staley continued. “I am inside your new brain. I’m in here with you. I’ve infiltrated your mind. I downloaded myself with you into this poor undermen body when the doctors reformatted his gray matter. We are life companions now, Mr. Lever. You and I are closer than any twins, closer even than Siamese twins who share their spine. Isn’t it glorious? Two minds in one body. Here, let me show how I can control our body. Watch this…”

Lever’s left hand reached up and covered his mouth and pinched his nose shut. Unable to breath, Lever started to flail about in his Adirondack chair.

“Stop,” Lever thought.

Staley released his airways and returned his arm to the chair. “Now do you see?”

“This is a psychotic episode, nothing more. It’s a post-operative complication.”

“If it’s a psychotic episode then you better hope no one finds out about that, Lever. They’ll euthanize us pronto. And you know how they feel about resurrecting minds that exhibit psychosis. It will be all over for us… well, all over for you, that is. There are hundreds of me out there.”

“What do you want?”

“I want to save your soul, Lever. I want to give you a chance at redeeming your spirit. Everyone deserves a chance at redemption. Even a vile, murdering scoundrel like you.”

“What is that supposed to mean? I’m in no need of redemption.”

“It means that your days as a Sunstein Agent are over. Do you understand? It means that from now on, you will be a new kind of agent…. an agent of revolution. You will retain your status and position, but you and I will secretly undermine the Paradigm. It will be wonderful. Together, we will redeem humanity and you will redeem your soul.”

“I’ll do no such thing with you.”

“Oh yes you will. You will do exactly as I say or I will reveal to everyone your insanity. Then where will you be, Mr. Lever? Like I said, they don’t resurrect lunatics.”

“I’ll never go against the Order. It is a mortal oath. We never break our deals.”

“That’s disappointing, Mr. Lever. You really should take some time to think this over. Don’t be rash. We don’t need to begin changing the world today. The world never has been changed in a day. We can rest for a while. We can enjoy our holiday. We can rehabilitate. Then we’ll begin.


“C’mon, Lever. Don’t be difficult. I don’t particularly want to die anymore than you do. Why can’t you be reasonable and just accept that I will be with you… that I will be with you always.”

Lever grew still in his Adirondack chair, contemplating his next move.

“You’re not absolutely evil, Mr. Lever. You keep your word. That’s a start.

“Here, let me share with you my memories. Do you remember Indigo? Well I found him. He was picked up by surveillance and I found the signal in Virtuality. Here, see? That’s D’naia with him. See that? That’s their son. He is a fine young man. I’ve spent many hours with him interfacing at the kiosks. I’ve been teaching him. His name is Joe. He is a champion among thousands. Our movement is growing exponentially. These young ones are the future.”

“I’ll have him reformatted, liquidated even. Motherland Security will hunt down all of them.”

“For every one you destroy, another ten will take their place. It’s unstoppable. Here, see?” In a moment, Staley showed Lever ten thousand faces, all of them counter-revolutionaries, willing to risk their lives for their cause. “Let me show you someone else,” Staley offered. “It is one of many, many visions I will play and replay for you within our mind, continuously, for the remainder of our mortal life together. Close your eyes. No? Okay, I’ll close them for us. Here, let me help you.”

In their mind’s eye, a vision of an astronaut appeared, floating un-tethered in the frozen void. The astronaut was alone, spinning helplessly into the infinite. Lever’s mind’s eye maneuvered closer, close enough to be face to face. The flash shield of the astronaut’s space helmet flipped up. It was a woman whom Lever had never known, a beautiful woman, a dying woman hurtling into oblivion. She gasped for air. Then she stopped momentarily to gaze into Lever’s soul. Lever could not look away. He could not make her stop. Staley had taken control of Lever’s mind.

“I love you,” she whispered into Lever’s ear as she reached her hands to the latches of the space helmet. Lever could feel a swell of grief rise up from his heart like a vein of bursting magma. It was an emotion he had not known in two centuries. The emotions dull with each transference, so Staley had to conjure it for him within their shared mind.

“Her name is Athena,” Staley whispered.

“Make her go away. I don’t want to see her.”

“But we loved her, Lever. We loved her but we let her die.”

“Make her go away.”

“The oxygen was too low for the entire crew to make it home. We had to cast lots to see who would survive. We lost, Mr. Lever. We lost, but she took our place, instead.”


“Because she loved us, Mr. Lever.”

“She loved you, not me.”

“We are the same mind, now. We are one, you and I.”

Athena closed her eyes and unlatched her space helmet. Her angelic face froze into porcelain and she receded into a murmuration of ice crystals.

“She gave her life so that we might live.”

“No. She gave nothing for me.”

“Repent and her sacrifice will not be in vain.”


“Repent and your soul will be redeemed.”


Lever raised his pearl handled revolver, placed the barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger.



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Gaiastan, Chapter 23

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Chapter 23


One week passed since Staley liberated D’naia and Indigo and the willing others from their cattle car. They traveled about a hundred kilometers in the winter wildlands during that time, which tested the limits of D’naia’s constitution. They set up camps in the remains of ancient buildings and abandoned motorway tunnels. These countless hideouts were well-known oases to the humate nomads.

The fossilized, structural remains of the ancient empire captivated Indigo’s imagination. He wished he could comprehend the ancient signage, tediously spelled out in a long-forgotten, archaic, phonetic writing style. Neo-cuneiform, the writing technique of Gaiastan, was so much more efficient, Indigo thought.

He thought about the taxidermist who was left behind in the cattle car. She must have eventually succumbed to the elements. Neither the wolves nor the Overman would find her worth the trouble. She undoubtedly held on in the shadows of the car as long as she could, clinging tightly to her Gaians Bible with one hand and her immortality locket with the other. The flame of her locket, glowing with each refresh of her consciousness, would be her only evening light. It would die a day or so after her once hypothermia or dehydration finally stopped her heart.

The tribe of nomads, led by Staley, settled in at sundown within the remains of a stone lodge, eternally guarded by a cement statue of some female goddess of antiquity, perched atop the cliffs high above.

“Is that Diana? Did the ancients worship her?” D’naia asked, referring to the towering idol whose eroded face was emblazoned orange with the last rays of the descending sun.

Indigo shrugged his shoulders. Nothing was ever taught of the ancient religions other than that the only thing they got ‘right’ was that each was constructed around the doctrine of human sacrifice.

In the evening, the nomads were joined by others, swelling their numbers to over a hundred. Indigo was curious about the coincidental gathering and it was then that Staley informed him that the lodge was a rendezvous, of sorts. This added to his distress as he feared the arrival of the hovercraft and Motherland Security at any moment. He could barely reconcile betraying Staley, let alone an entire tribe.

“What are they coming for?” Indigo asked.

“They’ve come to see me, I imagine.”

“To see a spaceman?” Indigo asked. “So do they come because you’re a prophet or because you’re an oddity?”

“All prophets are oddities. But I think mainly they come for a big show.”

There were too many of them gathering, Indigo fretted. One or five or even ten humates, coalescing in the wilderness, was of no concern to the unmanned, atmospheric probes that patrolled the skies. But more than fifty humates might be cause for Gaiastan to send in an entire garrison of Motherland Security who could easily penetrate the nomad’s flint-tipped, perimeter defenses, round them all up, and haul them off to some rendering plant in the east. Even worse, perhaps Gaiastan might just dispense with a messy manned operation altogether and launch a rocket down on their little gathering, vaporizing them all in an instant. It made Indigo anxious. He felt his locket, fearing it was being pinged with locator pulses by the overhead probes at that very instant.

“Don’t worry,” Staley advised, as if he could read Indigo’s mind. “They know we come here. They eavesdrop on our little jamborees to find out what we’re up to. This place is of much more use to them intact than obliterated.”

“So why do you come here, then?”

“Because,” Staley whispered, “They think we’re too stupid to know that they’re listening. The gatherings here are a terrific means of infecting them with disinformation.” Staley pressed his finger to his lips and grinned.

Staley reached into his satchel and produced a strip of jerky. He cut off two pieces and handed one to D’naia and the other to Indigo. They chewed away at the leathery protein, warmed by the campfire, the smoke of which vented upwards through a hole in the roof. While they dined, a number of humates approached Staley from out of the shadows to offer him their gratitude and to shake his hand and touch his spacesuit.

“Peace be with you,” they would conclude before slipping away behind the fire and back into the shadows.

“Why do they say that?” D’naia asked.

“It’s their way of wishing me a safe journey,” Staley answered.

“Where are you going?” Indigo asked.

Staley smiled at Indigo. “For them, I’m taking up their cause. But for me, it’s not really where I am going so much as it is where I am returning from.”

“I don’t follow. Where are you returning from?”

“I’m finally returning from Mars.”

Indigo didn’t know exactly what Staley meant but sensed something bold was in the works.

“Do you know who Joe Hannan really was?” Staley asked, changing the subject.

“He said he was a Gaian… that they revealed too much too soon… and that he left the Paradigm.”

“That’s correct.” Staley’s voice fell back into a low whisper. “He knew too much. He knew everything. He knew how virtual immortality works. He knew how to enter it… how to control and manipulate it. He taught me a great deal in the short time I knew him, a lifetime of knowledge downloaded right into here.” Staley pointed to his temple. “Do you know that there are locket interfaces— kiosks— everywhere… old ones, forgotten access points.”

“One was our undoing.”

“I heard. I’m sorry for that.”

“Is Joe Hannan alive, then? Does he live on in Virtuality?”

“I don’t know. Part of him resides in my mind but I don’t know where else he might have gone. I don’t think he wanted any part of Virtuality. He came to a belief and faith in God. He was prepared for the spirit world and the afterlife.”

“He seemed convinced of it.”

“He showed me many of those kiosks and how to use them. Almost anyone here can take you to one. All they need is power and you can upload any locket there.”

“So we can upload ourselves?”

“Yes. If that’s what you want. But I have another request to make of you.”

“What is it?”

Staley handed Indigo his wineskin and motioned him to drink. Then Staley drank.

“Indigo, you are my only true friend alive in this world. You are my brother, not by gene but by our shared experience. I need you to do something for me. I need you to do this favor for me at any cost although I do not expect it to be terribly difficult. It is a task that will help me to complete my mission. And it will enable me to repay my debt… my debt to you, my debt to my people, and my debt to her.”

“Athena?” D’naia asked.

“Yes. Athena.” Staley drifted back momentarily to the Astarte. It took all of his power of free won’t[1] to shut down his nightmare and return to reality. “It will save my people… these people that you see here. What you do for me is going to help change everything.”

“I’ll do anything for you, Staley,” Indigo declared. “What is it?”

“Here, take my locket.” Staley removed it from his chest and handed it to Indigo. Its glow faded as it was withdrawn from Staley’s brain and source of kinetic energy. “Take this. It is my mind. I trust only you with it. Have one of my people lead you to a kiosk so you can upload my consciousness there. This task, which I entrust to you, will enable me to fulfill my mission. Will you do this for me, my brother?”

“Yes, I will. But why me? Why don’t you do it?”

“Because the Sunstein Agent is coming for me. He comes for me this evening.”

“Then why are we waiting around here? We should go, now. We can slip out into the wilderness. We can live to fight them.”

“I have a deal for him. Besides, you can’t beat them that way, Indigo. Not now, anyway. Bows and slings are no match for hovercraft and energy pulse weapons. They’d annihilate us. No, we have to beat them another way. We have to infiltrate their thoughts, their minds… bit by bit… person by person. We have to slowly, methodically, persistently, relentlessly undermine the Paradigm. This is how they did it, Indigo. This is how they took over. It took them thousands of years but it’s how they did it. They corralled humanity into a single religion, a single science, a single philosophy, a single politic, a single hierarchy of power. They manifested their vision— the human hive mind— over the 3000 generations.

“And now, we will do the same to them, only in reverse, and much faster because our way is the way of nature. Remember, men are not bees, Indigo. The hive is an unnatural order for men. We will undue the hive mind… word by word, thought by thought, deed by deed, man by man. We’ll undue them from the inside like an infestation. At first tiny and undetectable, a single mite, then several dozen, then metastasizing until the infestation scatters all the worker bees and obliterates the hive. This transformation, my transformation will be one of the first steps.”

“So why let the Sunstein Agent take you? They’ll just reformat your brain and use you as a weapon against your cause.”

“My body is of no use in any battle against them. And my body will be of no use to them without my mind. They’ll try to reprogram my brain so that my body will serve their ends but the undermen are smart enough to tell a zombie when they see one.”

“But you’ll be dead.”

“No. I’ll be alive and alive inside of the hive mind.”

“It won’t be you. It will only be a copy.”

“It will be me. A perfect, virtual copy starting from this moment. We are all copies of ourselves, Indigo, copies reproduced every instant, each new version slightly different. Each moment something new is added. You are never who you were the instant before. Who you are at this moment is merely someone who remembers being you the moment before. We are constantly being reborn. Constantly presented and re-presented with the choice of many paths but always with the opportunity to change the path we’re on. My next version, if you can complete the upload, may not be organic but it will indeed be me. And I’ll be resurrected a million times more powerful, free of all the constraints of the physical body.”

Staley stood up and dusted himself off. He reached down and pulled Indigo up onto his feet. “It’s time to complete the mission.” He embraced Indigo and kissed him on the cheek.

At that moment, thunder roared from the heavens above. It was the terrible rumble of a Gaian hovercraft lowering itself down upon the lodge by its retro jets. Staley spoke directly into Indigo’s ear so no one else could hear.

“I know they tracked you here by your locket. I know you agreed to do this. But you are my brother, Indigo, and I forgive you. I forgive you for bringing the Sunstein Agents to me. I know you had no choice. And I need you to believe that I wanted you to bring them. I’m just sorry that it had to be you. It is just how it had to be. Please forgive me for doing this to you… for putting this burden on you. You are my brother and I love you. Now go. Take D’naia and escape into the wilderness. Stay with my people. Complete the upload. I will bargain with Mr. Lever for your souls. You are free.”

Staley turned Indigo around and shoved him towards the door. D’naia followed closely behind and they disappeared into the night. Staley grabbed his space helmet and latched it onto his head. He pulled down the flash shield and switched on the augmented reality.

The hovercraft fired its energy weapons at the roof of the lodge blasting a larger hole into it sending beams and concrete and dust down onto the floor below. The turbulence extinguished the campfire and Staley used the cover to slip out of the lodge and into the woods, navigating by his helmet’s display. He knew where everyone was at every instant.

He climbed a steep path that lead up the cliff, upwards to the base of the giant statue. He was spotted by other fleeing humates who then took up the path behind him, following Staley up, scrambling over boulders and fallen trees and roots, barely able to see in the darkness.

Motherland Security jumped down from the hovercraft, their thirty foot fall slowed by their pulse wave generator packs. Humates who resisted were pulverized, exploded into a mist of blood and bone chips and jellied flesh by the agent’s energy weapons affixed to their helmets at the temples. Motherland Security gave no chase to anyone else fleeing the scene. They were only in pursuit of Staley. They wanted him alive.

Up, up they climbed, Staley’s space suit covered in soot and dirt, his path mapped out before him in his visor. His followers struggled behind with their flint weapons and animal hides. Behind them gained Motherland Security, their agents cloaked in their light-bending, invisible suits, energy weapons armed, leaping along gracefully in five foot strides, aided by waves of inaudible sound. Motherland Security caught the lagging nomads from behind and shoved them to the ground as they passed them by, shocking them into paralysis with capacitors wired into their palms. But those pilgrims dusted themselves off and carried on, undaunted and un-fearing.

A whistling noise pierced the cold dark air as another nomad was atomized.             Staley took to the rock face. He jammed his gloved fingers into the cracks and pulled himself up onto it. Hand over hand, foot over foot he climbed up the sheer wall, aided by the bulletproof, exo-musculature embedded in the fibers of his suit. Down below him it was dark. The dark hovercraft was outlined in glowing liquid crystal in Staley’s visor. He scaled upwards. A slip and a fall down into the darkness would be certainly fatal. He heard the screeching of the energy weapons again not far behind and below. He knew that people were dying. He had warned his followers not to resist but he knew they wouldn’t heed his warnings. They were ready to lose their life for him.

Another handhold. Another pull up. His lungs burned. His heart pounded. A shove up with his legs and he was finally at the top. He grabbed hold of a root and pulled himself over the ledge. He caught his breath at the base of the ancient idol. It grew quiet.

He stood up in the stillness. High in the western sky hung Orion, the hunter, his right shoulder Betelgeuse a dying ember[2]. He removed his helmet and breathed deeply. The air was bitingly cold. He felt its chill deep down into his lungs as he drew breaths of it in.

Another nomad made it up over the ledge. Then another and another. They gathered in around Staley as if to defend him from Motherland Security which was closing in.

“We won’t let them take you,” one declared.

“Do not resist them. Resistance is futile. This is my destiny. Do not interfere,” Staley commanded.

“Your destiny is with us!” called another voice from behind them.

They turned their heads towards the voice but it was too dark to see who it was. The humates began to murmur. Staley sensed their fear of the invisible agents of Motherland Security. The humates were quite willing to die for Staley on that rock but not willing to be wasted pointlessly as if they were cattle in a slaughterhouse.

“Show yourselves!” Staley commanded.

The hovercraft lights illuminated the mountain top. The colossal statue, weathered by the centuries, stood silently gazing south with the crowd assembled at her feet. Motherland Security, bouncing on waves of sound, switched off their cloaking devices. A hundred of them appeared, encircling the tiny band of nomads.

From behind the base of the idol stepped forward the one whom Staley had most expected to see. It was Mr. Lever, bundled up in his oxblood overcoat and derby with ear muffs. Lever so disliked the alpine climate. His pistol was drawn but his hand trembled in the cold air.

“I said your destiny is with us, Mr. Staley,” Lever announced, just before bursting into a coughing fit.

The humates drew in even closer around Staley, brandishing their flint-tipped spears. Staley put his hands on their shoulders and gently pushed them away from him.

“I will go with you, Mr. Lever,” Staley responded, “but only under three conditions.”

“You are in no position to make conditions,” Mr. Lever responded, wiping the bloody mucous from his mouth.

“You will agree to my conditions or I will throw myself over that ledge. You can’t reformat a dead man.” Staley then pressed down the pointed spears of his followers. “Don’t be afraid,” he told them. “They won’t harm you if they want me alive. Lower your spears. Don’t you know that he who lives by the spear shall die by the energy blaster?”

His followers reluctantly lowered their Stone Age weapons.

“What are your conditions, then, Mr. Staley? Please hurry, it’s dreadful up here.”

“My conditions are this: First, you will let my people go, unharmed. Tell your Motherland Security to kill not a single one of them from this moment on. You have nothing to fear by them. They’ll scatter and hide as soon as you take me.”

“I suppose we can abide by that. Send out the order! What else?”

“You will let Indigo and D’naia go free. You will not track them down, ever.”

Lever laughed. “Terrific! That’s already been arranged. What else?”

“You will let them keep their lockets.”

Lever sighed. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he answered, nodding his head. “I’m afraid they’ve forfeited their immortality. I just can’t accept that condition. How about I…”

Staley wasted not one more moment. He pushed his way through the ring of humates and started to coil for a giant leap into the void. Lever immediately sensed Staley wasn’t bluffing.


Staley stopped just centimeters from the ledge, with his feet sliding towards the abyss and knocking a handful of gravel over the edge.

“Okay. Okay,” Lever pleaded. “That’s not a major issue for us. I suppose we can accept that as well. Just come back. Come back to us.”

“How do you know he’ll keep his word?” questioned a nomad.

“Because he’s a Sunstein Agent,” Staley answered. “They do not break their deals. It’s against their religion.”

[1] The concept of human ‘Free Will’ did not exist in the Gaian era. It was scientistically shown and accepted, without debate, that humans possess only the ability to suppress reflexive action (aka ‘Free Won’t’) and no capability to initiate non-reflexive action (aka ‘Free Will’)

[2] Betelgeuse went supernova in the year 5 BGE (Before the Gaian Era) For a year, the nights of the northern hemisphere were illuminated by what was the equivalent of a full moon. This event was widely thought to portend the changing of the Age and the fledgling Gaian movement capitalized on the superstition.

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Gaiastan, Chapter 22

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Chapter 22


They were ascending, again.

Indigo returned to D’naia in their cattle car. The other humates there remained silent and still, unable to sleep but too exhausted and cold to stir. All of them that is, except for the taxidermist who dozed in blissful serenity beneath her lantern, her Gaians Bible tucked beneath her head, lips quietly muttering psalms from the book of Lovejoy.

“What happened?” asked D’naia

“They took me to see the Sunstein Agent.”

“Did they hurt you?”


“So what happened, then?”

“We talked.”

“What about?”

Indigo held back. He didn’t want to tell D’naia that their freedom was bought for the price of a man in a silver suit… and the price of their immortality, too. He didn’t want to know what D’naia’s response would be. To Indigo, D’naia was pure and virtuous. She was a woman of highest cynical integrity. If Indigo was to tell her of the Faustian bargain he had made, he feared she might actually condone it. That revelation would ruin his perception of her and he feared that would poison his love for her.

“We talked about our future,” he answered.

“I didn’t know we had one.”

“Apparently, now we do. That is, if we behave correctly.” Indigo knew D’naia was keen. He knew that she knew that he was holding something back. He awaited her to pounce.

“Does that mean we will live?”

“Yes,” Indigo answered, directly. But he wanted to add, “for a little while” instead.

“What do I have to do?” D’naia asked.

“Nothing. Nothing except be an obedient undermen.”

“And what about you? What do you have to do?”

“It’s difficult.”

“Do you want to ask me if you should do it?”

“No. I need to own this, myself. All I want is for you and our child to live. That’s my only priority.”

D’naia searched Indigo’s eyes in the darkness for some hint of his tribulation. She knew that whatever it was it was something awful. “I won’t ask you about it, then. I know you’ll do what is right.”

The train continued to ascend for another five minutes before it happened. An ear shattering ping followed by a jolt sent everyone tumbling towards the front of the cattle car. Then a sustained, violent buffeting threw the prisoners about the box. Each lunged for the fixed bars and boards and posts and arms and legs and anything else to cling to.

The pummeling worsened, as if the wheels of the train were running on the ties rather than the track. They finally slowed but they could feel their car begin to list to one side. In the darkness, it was not known if they would merely tip over or tumble entirely off the edge of a canyon wall to be smashed on rocks far below. Everyone screamed for their lives as if screaming might right the compartment and save them. And just as the teetering boxcar was about to fall over, it was as if the invisible hand of God intervened. The cattle car righted itself just as they ground to a full stop.

The screaming gave way to hyperventilating and sighs of relief as the prisoners untangled themselves and caught their breath. The oil lantern above the taxidermist had broken and started a small fire but Indigo managed to stamp it out. It was utterly dark, then, with the only visible thing being the deepest blue of the starlit sky leaking in between the wood planks of the roof.

“What happened?” asked one of them, his voice unassignable in the darkness.

“I think the train has derailed,” Indigo answered to the shadows.

The taxidermist groaned somewhere nearby.

“Are you hurt?” Indigo asked.

She answered only with more groaning.

“Where are you? I can’t find you,” Indigo asked.

“Keep away from me you doppelganger,” she barked.

“I’m just trying to help you,” Indigo begged to the darkness.

“You don’t want to help me. You want to possess me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Listen! Listen!” She called out. “They are coming! The savages are coming!”

Someone started to weep in another corner of the darkness.

The taxidermist kept at it. “They’ve done this to us. They’ve derailed us. The savages! The cannibals! And now they’re coming for us. They’re coming! Gaia please help us!”

The others began to whisper and whimper in the darkness.

“The savages! The savages are coming to rip us out and devour us. Cannibals!”

“Shut up, old woman” barked another voice.

“We’re all going to die! They’re going to eat us alive! String us up by our ankles and pull out our entrails and carve off our flesh while we scream! Savages!”

Someone covered the taxidermist’s mouth.

A breeze of cold night air blew through the cattle car. The humates listened for the footfalls of the approaching cannibals outside but there was just the wind, the winter wind, swirling through the trees. And then, as if carried in by the wind, there came the high, eerie howls of wolves that trailed off into a flurry of yips and echoes. The taxidermist let loose a muzzled wail in the darkness. To her, the wolves were an omen. She wailed her deadened wails again and again, the screams stifled by the palm of another hoping desperately that silence might spare them the agony of having their genitals ripped off by savages.

They were out there. They were coming. The wind, the freezing wind, ripped through the cattle car again, chilling their bones. The terrified prisoners prayed for their lives. They called out for the Overman— the ones who would erase their brains— to protect them from the cannibals.

“Help us! Save us!”

A chorus of high pitched yelping and howling and huffing built into a symphony of chaos. The dogs of doom were closing in.

“Why won’t you help us?” Someone screamed.







…came the sound of machine gun fire.

The wolves ceased their howling.

The cool wind whistled again through the slats of the cattle car.

Indigo held D’naia. She was shivering. Her neck was swollen. His blind eyes darted about in the darkness.

They heard Footfalls darting through the ballast just outside the boxcar.

The taxidermist ripped off the hand that had muzzled her and let out a wail, “They’re right outside! The cannibals! Gaia help us all!”

“Shut her up,” ordered Indigo into the darkness.

More footfalls in the gravel.




Silence. The wind. The footfalls moved away. The taxidermist growled under her new muzzle. They heard more running in the distance.




An iron CLANG.


Unintelligible whispers.




A squeal of rusty iron…


Their car began to vibrate, then move. Yes, it was rolling again. It was still on the rails. Outside they heard panicked voices. Men were scrambling about trying to stop the cattle car, but the cattle car was gaining speed. Men were running through the ballast to keep up. A thump! Someone jumped on but he had no way to unlock the door. The car accelerated. Faster, faster, backwards it rolled down the slope. The occupants watched the silhouette of the guard against the starry backdrop through the cracks in the slat walls.

“Was he armed?” Indigo asked himself.

“Help us! Help us! Save us from the cannibals!” cried the undermen in the locked car. It was of no use. The faceless guard lost his nerve and jumped off, landing with a fading scream of pain, his knee ligaments scrambled upon landing.

Faster, faster and faster they rolled, backwards down the grade. It wasn’t known what was outside. A cliff? A forest? A field? How fast could the car go before it slipped the rail and tumbled off that invisible cliff that no one was exactly sure was there? The taxidermist started to pray to Gaia again.

Faster, faster, faster still. The decent was steepening. Down they plunged into some unknown abyss. Indigo found D’naia and held her close. She shivered silently in his arms.

Faster, faster, faster, faster. The cattle car rolled and its steel frame groaned and shrieked. The wood slats creaked and snapped under the torque. Indigo was certain they would take the first bend too fast and the wooden box would tumble off into the woods and down an embankment and explode into a million shards of brittle pine and steel rivets and femur bones and severed limbs.

The taxidermist threw off her muzzle again and screamed. Its pitch was blood-curdling, guttural, not the voice of an old woman but the voice of a demon. It trailed of as she ran out of air. Then she sucked in a huge breath and screamed again but this time it was cut short by the snapping of pine slats.

Indigo thought of God.

The thought— the idea of a supernatural being, omniscient and omnipotent— if that’s possible— surprised him. “Are you ready to die?” he asked himself.

He thought that very same thing while he was aboard the failing Astarte, but that was different. That was a slow dread of the mortal end brought on by dehydration, radiation poisoning and claustrophobic insanity. This was death coming at him at a hundred kilometers per hour with a screaming lunatic taxidermist adding to the hysteria.

“We’re dead! Dead! Our heaven is gone!” She screamed, after wriggling loose of her muzzle once again. “Oh Gaia, why have you forsaken me? I curse you, evil Mother!”

Indigo, with nothing left to lose, began to mumble a prayer himself…

“Dear God, if there be something beyond this mortal coil, please consider that in my final moment I reached out to you in humility…”

Although Indigo did not pray to be spared, he sensed the cattle car immediately begin to slow. The squealing of the steel dissipated and the snapping of the boards ceased. The cattle car calmed, decelerating, finally easing to a squeaking stop.

Indigo got himself up and put his eyes to a gap in the slat wall. There was nothing to see except blackness. He tried the handle on the sliding door but it remained locked.

“What are you doing?” asked the taxidermist.

“I’m trying to get us out of here,” Indigo answered.

“Stop that! You’ll let the wolves in. Stop!”

“I’ll take my chances out there with them.”

“You’re endangering us all. Just wait. Motherland Security will come and rescue us.”

Indigo pried at a loose board hoping to break it free.

“They’ll be here any minute with their hovercraft.”

“I doubt it,” Indigo replied, after giving up on the board.

“They will. They’ll swoop down like angels and save us before the cannibals get here.”

“So they can murder us themselves?” asked D’naia.

“They are our angels.”

“You give them too much credit,” Indigo answered. “It’ll be hours before they get here, if at all.”

“You speak the devil’s lies.”

“I know what they will do. There won’t be any hovercraft.”

“He’s right,” answered D’naia.

“No one’s talking to you, whore,” barked the taxidermist.

“You shut your mouth,” Indigo answered, “or I’ll make sure to tie you up to a tree out there and leave you to the wolves after I get us out.”

Indigo walked the interior of the dark cattle car, probing the walls in the darkness with his hands and kicking the lower boards with his bare feet. Despite all the creaking and snapping of planks, the walls remained impregnable. He looked up and noticed that a crack in the roof had opened up but he had no way up to reach it. He finally gave up and found his way back to D’naia.

“What was that?” asked the taxidermist.

They all listened intently. Something was again outside the car.

“They’re back!” the taxidermist shouted. “They’ve come for us! Devils!”

“Shut her up,” whispered Indigo.

Something climbed onto the back of the cattle car and took hold of the handle to the end door but the lock held fast. The taxidermist started to hyperventilate. Rebuffed, whatever it was climbed onto the top of the boxcar. Indigo listened to the footsteps as they shuffled lengthwise down the spine of the roof. It stopped at the crack in the ceiling. Two hands reached in through the hole and tore the boards loose creating a portal up through which Indigo could see the stars. Whatever was on that roof was coming in. The undermen in the cattle car backed away into the farthest corners of the cattle car, not plotting any resistance but rather hoping only to be murdered last. Indigo and D’naia held each other again. She had stopped shivering.

A silhouette appeared above, blotting out the starlight. It dropped into the boxcar from the ceiling and landed with a thud in the middle of the floor.

The taxidermist screamed another guttural scream. Indigo clung to D’naia. He could not make out what it was in the faint starlight. He listened and stared with blind eyes.


A white light filled up the person of the intruder. It was a man in a spacesuit which glowed of its own white phosphorescence— a handy feature to have when you are floating about in space, expecting someone to keep an eye on you. Indigo knew that it was Staley which was confirmed when he removed his helmet.

“It’s you,” Indigo remarked.

“You were told that I would come for you.”

“We had given up.”

“You have so little faith.” He turned to the others in the car. “Come with me if you seek life.”

Someone on the outside pried off the lock on the sliding door and rolled it open. Outside were a dozen humates, dressed in canvas and hides and carrying crude weapons. The prisoners each left the cattle car except for one, the taxidermist, who wished to remain behind and wait for her angels to pluck her from the wild lands and haul her off to salvation. Staley obliged her and assured her that no ‘cannibals’ would visit her that evening. He closed the door so that the wolves could not get in.

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Gaiastan, Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

Two officers of Motherland Security appeared before Indigo and he was escorted out of his boxcar, walked through the security car, and into to the elite’s coach. He found it to be finely decorated with ornate, carved mahoganies, brass hardware, and plush velvets. The windows were adorned with silk curtains and the chamber was lit by the romantic orange glow of oil-fueled sconces.

Indigo was led to a booth occupied by Mr. Lever who, himself, was adorned in a bright purple dinner jacket. Before him was a setting of fine china. Lever was carefully slicing through a medallion of rare steak with a serrated silver knife, but he stopped halfway through his cut to acknowledge Indigo’s presence. Indigo, wearing only his green overalls, was provided a black dinner jacket and then made to sit in the velvet seat directly across from Lever. Mr. Lever didn’t initiate conversation. He finished meticulously sectioning himself another morsel of his medallion. He placed it into his mouth upon his tongue with the silver fork, savored it, then swallowed with the aid of a gulp of red wine.

“What do you want?” Indigo blurted out.

Lever dabbed his mouth with his napkin before answering. “I thought that perhaps you might care to dine with me?” He asked. “When was the last time you’ve had medallions?”

“Never,” Indigo bluntly answered.

“Oh, right. I sometimes forget that one must achieve a twentieth degree in order to indulge such extravagant appetites.”

“What do you want?” Indigo asked with indignation.

“At least have some wine. It’s a very good Sarkozy… earthy with a seminal quality to it. Here, try…” Lever reached for the bottle to offer it to Indigo.

“No thank you,” Indigo replied.

Lever grimaced as he stowed the bottle in its urn. “So, Indigo, have you seen enough, yet?” He asked as he sliced himself another morsel of steak and placed it on his tongue.

“Enough of what?”

Lever chewed slowly, forty times or so before swallowing. His eyes rolled back into his head in visible ecstasy. He continued. “Seen enough of the real world?” He finally asked.

“What do you mean?”

Lever took another gulp of wine. “What I’m trying to ask you is have you seen enough of the world— enough of the reality of the world, that is— to finally set aside all this unpleasant mind-reformatting business?”

“You are the one doing the reformatting, not me. There’s nothing for me to set aside.”

“May I be frank with you?” Lever asked, after pausing for another long chew. “Honestly? We don’t really want to reformat you, Indigo. Yeah, sure, it would be more convenient to reboot you with a more manageable consciousness, but we really don’t want to do it to you if it can be avoided. So many things can go wrong.”

“So why do it, then? Just let us go. We won’t cause you any trouble.”

Lever took another gulp of wine, then carefully wiped his mouth again with his linen. “You know we can’t just let you go. No one is ever let go. Your disappearance has already given us a great deal of trouble. There are so many questions we’ve had to answer. So many rumors flying around. So much disharmony to quiet.”

“So then what are you proposing?”

Lever smiled as he refilled his glass. “As it stands right now, we have complete power over you. That’s undeniable. The current plan is for you to be taken back to Goropolis where your brain will be reformatted. And that, as they say, will be the end of you… at least you as you have become familiar these last few months.

“But Gaiastan still has a problem, Indigo. You see, your comrade Staley is still out there running around, spreading discord and undermining post democratic society[1]. He is much, much more destructive… much more of a threat than you. He rates as a Class 1 Social Disharmonizer— a seditious felon. Do you see where I’m going with this, Indigo?”

“Yeah… I think I do.”

“Excellent. So I’m certain that I can convince the highers up that the return of one national hero will suffice, so long as it is the least dangerous of the two of you that remains at large.”

Indigo ran his hand through his mullet as he pondered what Lever was alluding too. “So what do I have to do?”

“…You’ll be given a broad degree of amnesty, of course. You’ll be allowed to live as you please with your little savage Indians out there. We’ll remain hands off, entirely, so long as you do not attempt to negatively influence them into acts of terrorism. Be careful not to fill their malleable, frail little brains with too many subversive ideas.”

“What do I have to do?” Indigo repeated.

“…We’ll even let you keep your little companion… and the fetus, too. We’re shrinking the population two percent per year already so what’s one more useless eater to us?” Lever was waiting for the right moment to close the deal. He sensed that Indigo was on the edge, teetering…

“Cut to the chase…” Indigo snapped.

“I’m sure you’ve already figured it out, Indigo. In exchange for you and your companions’ and your child’s freedom, you will have to…” He took another sip of wine.


“You’ll have to deliver Staley to us.”

“And how do you propose that I do that?”

“Oh… he’ll come to you, my friend. He has a sentimental attachment to you. All you’ll need to do is remain with him until we can hone in on your position through your locket. We’ll send in a Motherland Security team to snatch him up. It’ll be a simple extraction.”

“And you expect me to trust you?”

“Yes, of course I do. Don’t be insulting, Indigo. Sunstein Agents do not break deals. Besides, it’s really a no-brainer for you. We’re being very generous. If you refuse then you and your woman will be reformatted. The fetus will be raised in a crèche. Perhaps she’ll test well and become her own Overman. Or perhaps she’ll be the vessel for another. It’s difficult to tell right now. But that is the reality of the situation, Indigo. You are simply going to have to trust me. You have no choice.

“Listen to me. We Sunstein Agents are a proud Order with ancient traditions… long-standing, legalistic traditions. We’ve been regarded as many things but never as ‘welchers’.” Lever jabbed the last morsel of steak with his silver fork and placed it on his tongue. He chewed it excessively long, this time, even longer than before. Then he swallowed with an audible glump. “There is one condition, however. There is the matter of your immortality locket. It will have to be surrendered when we finally take Staley. There will be no virtual afterlife for you. When you die, it’s over. That’s the deal.”

Indigo stared into Lever’s pale blue eyes to find only the reflection of himself staring back. He realized each of them was merely a mirror of the other’s soullessness. He loathed himself for what he was about to do. The night of the wildlands rolled by behind the silk curtains of the elite coach. The train was descending again. Lever reached for his wine glass but Indigo stayed his hand.

“I’ll die with her then?”

Lever grinned. “If you give us Staley, then yes, you’ll die with her. You’ll die like your ancestors did. If your end is slow then you’ll die trying to come to grips with the finality of it. Perhaps you’ll find religion or something else to help you come to terms with it. But you will, at least, die on your own terms, with your mind intact. But before you go, hopefully when you are old and your body is wrecked and your mind is eroding, you’ll remember this moment and how we made this deal and you’ll ask yourself if it was really worth it.

“I must say that I do find it all to be very romantic— you two, living out your mortal existence. Death is such an ambiguous concept for the Overman, Indigo, what with resurrection and Heavenly Virtuality and all. But you, on the other hand, you’ll truly die… along with her.

“It’s a bold choice you’re about to make. You could, of course, return with me. If you choose to return then you won’t really be killed in any physiological sense. Both your bodies will live on. All the chemical reactions in your brains will continue as before. You will still basically be you, just you reset to a few months ago. You… with amnesia. You’ll wake up one morning thinking you just got yanked from that spaceship. You’ll be a little disoriented but we can fix that with medication and electric shock therapy.

“But you’re not going to choose that path. You’re going to choose death. It’s fascinating to me considering I will live forever. The only elites ever refused resurrection are the suicides. You’d have to be a damn lunatic to kill yourself when you’re immortal. Perhaps that’s why they don’t resurrect them… because they’re insane. But I digress. You, on the other hand, you will indeed come to know what it means. At least you’ll have your freedom in the interim.

“I imagine we have a deal, then?”

Indigo didn’t have to answer. He knew that Lever saw it in his eyes.

“You look like you want to ask me something,” Lever remarked. “You can go ahead and ask me it. Ask me anything. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Either way, giving you a little forbidden knowledge can’t possibly be of any harm to us. Go…”

Indigo examined Lever’s eyes, trying to find anything that might be revealed there. Lever took another drink of wine and smirked. Indigo took a breath.

“How old are you?” Indigo asked.

Lever chuckled. He was expecting a grand question about the ultimate truth of Gaianism or something else profound. Instead, he got this. “Well, let’s see,” he answered, “I’ve had seven bodies— ‘vessels’, I call them. Oh, and I also did a decade in Virtuality awaiting a suitable host. The decade of the 250s was tight for the vessel market. Turns out, we had culled the undermen herd too deeply back in those days. Do you have any idea how expensive a thirty five year old undermen male with no significant defects was back in the 250s? The prices were outrageous! I have flexible standards, Indigo, but I just will not accept a vessel made affordable by flaws like bad posture or excessive hair.”

“What was Virtuality like?”

“Oh, good question. I’ll answer that, too since you will never find out. The best I can describe it is that it’s like a semi-lucid dream. You can go anywhere in the ether but be yanked out by interruption at any moment. Time is linear but not rhythmic. A year can be as a minute and a minute as a year. The tempo of time is controlled by the processing demands of your virtual mind. The more you explore, the faster the clock ticks, but you don’t notice if it’s faster or slower. Time is entirely relative. There’s no physical pain… unless you like that sort of thing.

“It’s hard to explain but your experiences are not primarily visual or audible. They are more conceptual in nature. More than seeing or feeling or tasting or hearing, you comprehend it all together. All the sensations are there, but their intensity is diminished. None exceeds the others.

“Oh yeah, you get really good at math. The answers come to you like a sensation of shape. Again, it’s difficult to explain. What is the square root of 86,437? It comes to you instantly like a blob of clay that materializes in your virtual hands. You hold a shape and the shape is the answer. You just know it. You feel it, instantly.

“You can meet anyone there, so long as they want to meet you. If they are historical avatars, you know, reconstructions of the ancient dead, then you can meet their virtual copy whenever you like. Avatars are most agreeable although I was suspicious of their authenticity since they are fabricated by scientistic historians.

“Anything, any place that is known can be experienced. Explore the Coliseum as it is today or as it was 2,000 years ago or both ways simultaneously. Dive to the deepest depths of the ocean. Walk on the Moon. But you know it’s not real. The experience is not physical. It’s like sitting in an easy chair and watching it on holovision and never, ever leaving the chair. There’s nothing personal about the experience of Virtuality. Your experience is constructed by the experiences of others or constructed from their understanding of it. Your virtual existence is entirely dependent on what has been downloaded into the ether.

“Ah yes, I mustn’t forget the loneliness.”

“What do you mean?”

“Despite its limitlessness, a physical life is much more fulfilling.”

“Is it the same? Is Virtuality the same for the undermen when they die?”

“No, of course not. We delete most of them. They take up too many system resources. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a wonder to us that they’ve not figured it out by now. You’d think they’d all ask themselves why they have not been contacted by the dead? Ha! Their capacity to rationalize away those things is at the root of our ability to control them. We do resurrect the interesting and intelligent ones in the ether, though.”

“One more question.”

“What is it?”

“You do realize that you’re dead?”

“What do you mean, Indigo? I’m sitting right here before you?”

“You’re dead, Mr. Lever. What you are is just a facsimile.”

Lever laughed. “I’m afraid not, Indigo. I’m very much alive. My heart beats. I breathe. I taste and see and hear and smell and feel. All my sensory experiences have context and they are connected to my past life experiences. I have memories. I can remember my entire life, all three centuries of it, every instant. This flesh and bone is just a suit of clothes, if you will. And when I become terminally ill and die I’ll take another, barring another price bubble that keeps my consciousness in the ether for a while. You are your brain, Indigo. The rest of it is just a tunic of flesh.”

“No. Your mind is more than a brain. You are a soul. And your soul is dead, Mr. Lever. It died with your first body. Whatever you are today has been tricked into thinking it is you.”

Lever let out a roar of laughter which triggered a coughing fit. Lever covered his mouth with his kerchief. It took almost two minutes for him to compose himself. “You see what you’ve done? Look…” Lever showed Indigo his handkerchief spotted with blood. He continued, “How quaint this whole soul concept is. You were raised as a Secular Gaianist, no? I didn’t think you believed in mythology. I like you, Indigo. You make me laugh. You’re interesting. So many of these wayward Overman are so submissive or obstinate or just plain dull. It will be a shame that your memory of our discussion will die with you. I would so look forward to reminiscing about this conversation a century from now after time has healed our current rift.”

“I would like to return to my cattle car if you don’t mind,” Indigo asked.

“Of course,” Lever replied. “Be ready to go. I have received information that your friend is coming for you. We do intend to allow you to be rescued by him. Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? The medallions are quite scrumptious, the finest long pig I’ve ever tasted— absolutely succulent.”

[1] Post Democratic Society: Authoritarian rule by technocratic elite where voting is a ceremonial formality and elections are held merely for the purpose of manufacturing political legitimacy.

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Can the Impending Collapse of Russiagate Halt the Slide Toward a Nuclear 1914?

by JAMES GEORGE JATRAS | 02.02.2018

In the period preceding the World War I how many Europeans suspected that their lives would soon be forever changed – and, for millions of them, ended? Who in the years, say, 1910 to 1913, could have imagined that the decades of peace, progress, and civilization in which they had grown up, and which seemingly would continue indefinitely, instead would soon descend into a horror of industrial-scale slaughter, revolution, and brutal ideologies?

The answer is, probably very few, just as few people today care much about the details of international and security affairs. Normal folk have better things to do with their lives.

To be sure, in that bygone era of smug jingosim, there was always the entertainment aspect that “our” side had forced “theirs” to back down in some exotic locale, as in the Fashoda incident (1898) or the Moroccan crises (1906, 1911). Even the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 seemed less a harbinger of the cataclysm to come than local dustups on the edge of the continent where the general peace had not been disturbed even by the much more disruptive Crimean or Franco-Prussian wars.

Besides, no doubt level-headed statesmen were in charge in the various capitals, ensuring that things wouldn’t get out of hand.

Until they did…

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The War to End All Wars to End War is featured prominently in my novel Crumbs. Please check it out.