Category Archives: Gaiastan

Crazy Government Remedy For Global Warming Predicted!

GaistanCover2017

Thomas Luongo relays a government-funded plan to reverse global warming with injections of smog:

The latest is the patently insane idea of dimming the sun by dispersing sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect and absorb some of the energy coming from it to slow the rate of global warming.

I would hope, at the very least, they are thinking of something thoroughly inert like barium sulfate, but they aren’t.  They are talking about injecting SO2 into the atmosphere.  Another word for SO2 is SMOG.  This is the very compound we have been regulating power plants to not emit.

So, that’s it folks.  That’s our choice now.  Smog or a nice cozy, warm home with abundant food and mild weather for most of the planet.

My novel Gaiastan predicts this (along with catastrophic consequences.)

“Indigo watched as their brick shanties and broken glass and smoking chimneys flew by as his train puffed and chugged and chugged and puffed towards the Overtown precinct. Those pathetic undermen in their rags, he thought. Thank goodness Gaiastan is here to provide for those wretched souls. Where would they be without Gaianism?

Big Mother passed through the outer serfdom and into the industrial zone. Ash from the coal fired power plants and mills vented upwards from hundreds of kilometer high fabric smokestacks. The haze of aerosols obscured the dim orb of the sun, casting the earth below in shade.

Aerosols! Aerosols! They were the great savior of mankind! Once considered an evil pollutant, the microscopic specs of sulfurous soot found broad scientific acceptance. Aerosols were the antidote to global warming which had elevated earth’s mean temperature a whopping .8 degrees in the shockingly rapid time span of 300 years.

Aerosols! Aerosols! They saved mankind from the catastrophe of a global winter foreshortened by 8 days. Upon the arrangement of scientific consensus, national directives were issued, public works projects were launched, scientistic bureaucrats were deployed, methanol powered bulldozers were ignited. Financial alchemists were tasked with designing new instruments and derivatives to turn reality into abstraction. Trading exchanges began listing Aerosol Debit Derivatives… symbol: ADD. The economy was completely rearranged in a more enlightened, earth-friendly, sustainable manner.

And the amounts of particulates pumped into the atmosphere by kilometer high smokestacks held aloft by zeppelins rose and rose and rose. The aerosols filled the stratosphere where they reflected the sun’s infra red light that had fueled the pernicious, relentless advance of global warming that threatened to raise sea levels a catastrophic 8 centimeters. It took far less time to reverse the ravages of a degree of warming than the Thirty Year Plan computer model predicted. Almost immediately, the apocalyptic global warming began to reverse.

And as the coal ash aerosols increasingly obscured the sun’s rays, Gaia was finally cooled…

And cooled…

And cooled… “

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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.

 

Zzzt.

Screaming.

Convulsions.

 

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.”

“Staley?!”

“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.

“Never.”

“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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“No.”

“Repent and your soul will be redeemed.”

“Never.”

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.

“Wait!”

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?”

“No.”

“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.

Finally…

 

BANG

BANG

BANG

 

…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.

 

BANG BANG

 

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

 

BANG BANG BANG

 

An iron CLANG.

 

Unintelligible whispers.

 

BANG BANG BANG BANG

 

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.

Click

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.

“What?”

“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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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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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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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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