Friday, March 20, 2015

Theocracy: Chapter IV

      

       The simulations held by the Shaman, Cantharis de la Cruz himself were the greatest challenge the students had chosen to face. He built up realms with countless threats to the dreamers, and to survive, one must use his bodily strength and his mind’s fullest capacity in cooperation with his peers. Courage and determination were the keys to surviving the dreamworlds - to fight against  the thousand threats the Shaman forged. A siege of their world. Fighting against an ancient, lovecraftian being wanting to enslave humanity. Finding themselves in the Fall of Terra, each student assigned to a role in the society ranging from the highest politicians in power through cops and surveillance agents to labourers with only one task in their mind: to do the right thing.
       They woke up from these simulations with a newfound understanding of their world and more importantly: themselves. It helped them to achieve self-knowledge. When the students found themselves in unfamiliar circumstances, they had only one solid and unmovable ground in which to stand, which was their personality. They had to learn its laws and rules, the ways it operated; after all, they were being trained to be the guardians of society at the academy of Liberty’s Sanctuary.
       Even though the mechanism was written by the Shaman, the ornamentation emerged from his subconscious; his feelings, his memories or passing thoughts. On the day of their departure, blood was dripping out of the walls below the city of Vatican, distant screams chilled the students’ already frozen bones, and demonic shadows hunted those who managed to keep their sanity in this haunted nightmare.
       The Shaman felt all of them. They connected to his mind walking his dream, fighting his challenges. Countless years ago, when his mind longed to travel into the unknown, he had studied the art of dreaming from a nameless, calm and wise pratyekabuddha – an enlightened one withdrawn from teaching - in the forests of Azirion, where countless humans hid in deep meditation. They forsook the societies of Mars after the destruction of the mother planet Earth. Imbalance in nature  – they reasoned – destroyed our home planet. It is human action that causes imbalance in the nature. It is human desire that drives our actions.
       So they nullified the desires of the body, had their vital organs slowly eaten and synthetically rebuilt by nanobionical regenerative drones, interconnected their minds, gave their wealth to charities and with nothing but a robe and the book of Tao te Ching, stepped into the forests never to be seen again.
       Since then, they had been waiting the end of their lives immersed in meditation, but when the Shaman dreamed, they protected his realm with their presence to keep the dream stable and devoid of intrusion.
       He looked back to the city gleaming in the night. Stormclouds gathered above the realm and he saw a lightning reaching from the St. Peter’s Basilica to the heavens themselves.
       No, it was not lightning. It deceived his dreaming mind. It was not pure light flashing in the storm, but a permanent tear in the fabric of the dream and - no matter how inconceivable it was - the scar was made of pure darkness.
       The Shaman turned away. Whatever was happening there, his students would handle it.  He’s been searching for the woods to find his master, and now he faced a mountain embraced by starlight.
       Above him flew a sentinel bird, welcoming the guest. Glowing eyes peered at him from between the trees. He stood at the entrance of the forest in which the hidden presences of his dreams, the monks of Azirion lived in animal form. As the shadows loomed over him, he summoned his ever-changing staff which he always used in simulations. As a torch, it illuminated the path he walked between the trees, followed by the curious eyes of nature’s creations.
       His first step as a lucid dreamer began with the first tree he created in his dreamworld with his master’s aid. The AI intertwined with his brain created a boundless realm within him, to where he returned each night, living in it, forming it. Now he stood before the ancient tree of his dream. It’s root reaching every region of the realm, its branches reaching further into heavens than any skyscraper made by human hands, its foliage looming over the great field, the moonlight of Earth’s Luna was shining through it’s branches. A grey wolf guarded it’s trunk, and when the Shaman approached, he barely opened his eyes as a gesture of greeting.
       - Master – Cantharis bowed – I came to say goodbye.
       The wolf was the dreamform of the monk who taught him the art of lucid dreaming. He was a man one with nature, his words flowing as a brook in the forest, his mind soared in the freedom and his laughter brought light to any heart suffocating in sorrow. He oversaw Cantharis’ dreams and simulations, stabilizing them with his presence, being an unchanging anchor in a world of illusions.
       - There are humans – the Shaman continued – who need my help and I will give it to them. I… - his voice broke off, then he continued softly – I am being devoured by the peace I have created. I want to struggle and lose hope and fight one more time.
       The winds shrieked and the whole dream started to heave beneath his feet, the tree wavered as a comet passed through the sky.
       - Stay – whispered the winds.
       A chill ran down the Shaman’s spine. His master, who swore to live a life of observing the flow of nature without disturbing it with human action, has now turned away from his philosophy only to guide Cantharis away from a path clouded with shadows.
       His mind received a memory from his forgotten childhood. A vision from the AI to strenghten the resolve of Cantharis de la Cruz, to help him remember the man who helped him and guided him toward his goal, which was not only the liberation of Oana Rain, but all who deserved a second chance while suffering under the tyranny of the vaticanian simulation. It was the memory of the first encounter with detective Clark Novaris.
       The child, Cantharis laid there strapped, bloody and sobbing in the Chamber of Transcendence when the detective found him. Wings, reaching from the metallic frame toward the ceiling were implanted in his back, made by electrostatic outbursts shielding and holding the countless tiny thrusting engines in place. The wings looked as if they were woven from lightning.
       Novaris opened the iron shackles with a small pointing laser heating its target, helped up the boy and gave him his long, black coat. The wings scrached the fabric as he took it up. From then on, detective Clark Novaris took care of the young Cantharis, he raised him and helped him live with the technological curses his father, Azier gifted him.
       His consciousness had returned to the simulation and he felt a familiar, yet forgotten feeling. For a long time he was trapped in the repetition of everyday life. He got so used to it that most of the times, unconsciosly, he was withdrawn from reality into his thoughts and ideas, not being connected to his actions or the events around him. Now, as the first obstacle had shown itself, he no longer felt the comforting feeling of being at home with its predictability and ease. He was awake.
       - Too bad – he smiled. – I came to say goodbye, not to seek guidance, my old master. There is no force in the world that could stop me – he said while the AI in his brain looked for the worst possible outcome of his plan. Nothing that would stop time itself.
       The wolf growled and with two swift jumps he charged towards the Shaman. Cantharis stood there one hand in his pocket, another holding the staff with ease. He looked straight to the wolf’s eyes and said, his voice calm and soft:
       - I see now the reason for your withdrawal from among us. It is your action that you fear of. But others can change.
       The wolf growled once again at the Shaman sofly and weakly, then went back to the tree and laid down again, sighing. Cantharis bowed at him.
       - Thank you.
       The animal didn’t even look at him as he left. The great grey wolf watched the dancing of the grass in the gentle wind. If he were a human being, one would have assumed that he was absorbed in his thougts with a stoic acceptance of his fate.

***
       They were walking between houses with queer architecture in one of the outer regions of the colony. The bulidings were ships the owners used to travel from Earth and settle in on the Red Planet. After the driver found a lovely place to park his ship, that location became his home. It was months after the planet’s terraformation, so when they stepped out, nature welcomed them with an earth-like atmosphere.
       Though the ships were still functioning, they remained grounded and were transformed into homes to shelter its owners. Grey and blue metallic structures rested on the grass covered grounds, spaceships of all shapes and size. One, with a close resemblance to the Millenium Falcon, let alone some minor technical modifications. Outside of the housing ships, residents set up lovely gardens with inviting tables and chairs, so if a passerby felt thirsty, he could ask the owners for a refreshment in exchange of a modest payment of course.
       Those who lived there built and maintained the roads between the ships, so that they could have a walk in the neighborhood. Their time had allowed such works since their career barely took an afternoon of their week.
       Taxation was the most destructive force man has ever made against itself. It devoured time and energy. Back on Earth, before humanity had learned the peaceful way, the people in power used legal theft to fund and grow the business called government. They took away the fruits of every citizen’s labour and said that this monstrous, outrageous theft was the price one must pay if he wants to be the part of the civilized society. And for a long time, everyone succumbed to the violence.
       One of the consequence of abolishing the state was free choice for all to pay for the medical and security services as he desired, and to create businesses in the field where the government held monopolies. An other effect was that they had more than enough money to afford a portion of the road construction. Without government to take away more than the half of every transaction, their payment, the construction and renting of the worker drones, the production and distribution of the materials, and without the endless struggle of acquiring the governmental authorizations – it took only hours to build and thirty minutes per month to maintain the self-rehabilitating roads.
       Raoul was familiar here, his parent’s spaceship parked near this place with which they left Earth -  in the hope of a new, liberated world – only to find themselves in the grasps of the cult that killed them. They often wandered through the neighborhood with the little Raoul just to connect with the humans living there and build friendships. He led Solaris  and Anabelle to a mighty starship, the property of Heresy Foundation. The foundation used to help the children of highly reigious parents who thought it would be a good idea to control a human being they had created, and even more, to control the child through fear of hell, eternal damnation and suffering. As a result, there were some who opposed the waking change in the structure of society based on fear of those in power, and the foundation helpoed them to return into reality.
       The founders lived in the ship now, an elderly couple retired from their mission.
       - They are marvelous cooks – smiled Raoul as they approached the ship. The man stood in the balcony, smoking and enjoying the sight of the sunrise. He looked down, smiling and waving at them, then disappeared in the chamber of the cruiser.
       They walked below the majestic, metallic wings to the back of the ship, in a path between rose bushes. Mrs Kynia Nightwood was already there, commanding the drones to place the wooden tables and chairs - handmade by her husband - to an empty place in the garden. They greeted the woman, and Raoul introduced her to Ana and Solaris.
       - Oh my dears, call me Kynia. I don’t like the elderly titles – said the woman while shaking their hands. She was energetic, smiling and tall, she dropped back her white, long hair and returned to the drones until the furniture was in the right place. The students sat down, the sight of the sunset to their side, and started to study the menu Kynia sent to them.
       - We have homegrown coffee and marijuana, I take care of the plants personally – said a melodic voice. They looked toward the ship to see Mr. Nightwood, a muscular, bald man, whose age was visible only on his arm in the form of a tattoo; saying: ,,Made in Earth”
       He shook their hands aswell.
       - You can call me Rade. I just came down to welcome you – he smiled. – I hope you’ll enjoy your evening here.
       He embraced her wife, and they left the students to prepare the orders.
       - It is a lovely place, Raoul! – said Ana in excitement.
       - Yes, we used to frequent it almost daily with my parents.
 - I thought one would avoid the place triggering old memories after such a horrible event – said Solaris, carefully choosing his words. Raoul shrugged.
       - This place has a certain atmosphere of calmness. And – he stopped for a second, looking at the sunset – I come here to relive the memories. The only thing that’s left from them are the memories. Now – he smiled at them – stop dwelling on the past, at least the investigation is proceeding.
       - Yup – nodded Solaris and looked at Ana. – We caught a member of the cult. If we had strong evidence to prove the interhuman connections between the members, the whole cult could be damaged.
       - You guys are taking it too far. I mean they could be a stepping stone to humanity. I’ve heard they live in a state  of simulated reality, seeing all the information around them to a sub-atomic level. They have instantaneous communication channels amongst them, one knows what all the others know. And furthermore – she spoke faster with her eyes glittering, as she became more and more excited – imagine if all of us were connected! Why would anyone break the non-agression principle then? We could… 
       ”Ana – interrupted Solaris’ voice in her mind. – You are talking about the entity who killed Raoul’s parents!”
       She fell into silence inmediately, looked at Raoul in shock; tears veiling her eyes.
       - God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know…
       - Nah - he said, holding up his hand - not a problem. You didn’t know. And to be honest, there is truth in what you’re saying. I thought about it a lot, about the cult and all, and they might be right. Their goal might be what we should strive for, but the means with which they are trying to achieve it is corrupt. After I’m done with them, their legacy will be useful for us.
       - I have looked up all the information regarding this Vatican simulation – said Solaris.
       - Regarding what? – asked Ana.
       - Well, it is a long tale, and I’ll tell it all later, but in short, we know that there is a virus in the Vatican that can be used as a weapon against the cult. What is it? – he asked as he saw Ana looking at him in shock and disbelief.
       - I only wanted to bring the subject up later, and before that, I have to tell you that the coincidence is strange, or outright suspicious, so think about it when you make your decision, but the Shaman asked the three of us, if we would like to go with him to the Vaticanian simulation for a week or two.
       - What the hell – said Raoul.
       - Did he say why he wants to go there? – asked Solaris. – This is a way too lucky coincidence indeed. 
       - Yes. He told me a lot about that place. It is a statist society, but based on a voluntary contract one signs before entering the simulation.
       - What is the point of this? – asked Raoul
       - Outcasts live there – said Solaris in a calm, slow tone. - It is understandable to a degree, those who are unable to cooperate with the principles of this world must find a suitable place to live. What a terrible fate – he shook his head. – To accept your enslavement in despair, after you are not allowed into this world.
       - There are some who have changed while they were there, and the Shaman wants to help them – said Ana.
       - And what will he gain from it? – asked Raoul. – I mean no sane person would do it for pure altruist reasons.
       - As I understood, he is terribly bored here. Well, you saw the simulation today, he really wants to go. And I want to go as well. I want to see these people, this world, the difference between a statist and an anarchist society.
       - I will go, of course – said Raoul.
       They looked at Solaris, who was looking at the table, his mind racing through reasons why he would go.
       - I should go – he shrugged. – Though I have no reason why.
       - Well then – said Raoul with a smile – luck and the gods are on our side. And the Shaman.
       Servant androids started to bring the meal, printed meat and homegrown plants and fruit. The servants were paid workers, an AI assistant residing in a synthetic body programmed to act as a professional servant. The minds were individual persons made by human technology, working and living with their creators in the martian society.
       They served a joint to each of them, made of genetically modified seeds of cannabis sativa, an organic plant trained to pass the regeneratory firewall of a human being, infecting the neural system with the same sensation that an unmodified human would feel if he would inject unmodified cannabis.
       The students ate, recalled the events of the morning to Ana, and talked about the afternoon’s simulation, their thoughts constantly drifting into the unknowable future that awaits them. When they have finished and paid, they were talking about the symbolism of the Shaman and Hypnos, ”the pillar between worlds leaving the city influenced by the god of dreams” – as Solaris put it using the meaning of the names.
       They waved at Mr Nightwood who returned the gesture. Another tattoo on his other arm, the pair of ”Made in Earth” saying ”Rests between the stars.”
       The night after dinner came shortly. The students packed the things crucial to an interplanetary journey and arranged their social disappearance. They froze their academy accounts and traded every mission they were working on with detectives all around the globe. Sent a goodbye message to all of their friends and disconnected from the network, to greet their city without distractions.
       Raoul spent the last night with his assistant in it’s favourite „dress” Anilai. They – as countless other people – had a long, enduring friendship mutually benefiting both party in trade and emotional business. Raoul with his huge heart left his digital wallet open to his friend, since he knew that artfical minds were still lowpaid in the market; lacking the ability to dream.
       Solaris Midsummer spent the evening with Lillian and his beloved one last time before departing.
       Minutes before midnight; when the people of the city were still travelling to the space station with elevators, and the dark skyscape above the city showed the blue pillars opening, the lift ascending and the pillar closing again, the rings of the elevators flying to a next order over and over, three drones flew to the top of the school carrying the package of the Shaman’s best students. A moment after, the lift opened and Cantharis turned towards the three stepping out of it.
       The gray and blue metallic falcon at the top of the academy that was Cantharis’ ship slowly rose to the sky. The Shaman and the three were watching the receding city - their city - in which they were born and raised by the greatest of the teachers and legends, and helped its residents to resolve disputes countless times. They were departing from the city which held their memories, the parks above the skyscrapers where Solaris and Ana spent the warm nights, the skies that Raoul loved to roam with his cloudwalker, their friends and the happy faces in the streets, the jubilation of strangers all around the colony that filled their world with joy. Their heart were aching and revolting at the same time. First time in their life, the children of Mars were leaving their homeplanet.
       Cantharis saw the city in the forests of Azirion: a tiny point of light appeared, then another, and within seconds, the blaze of a thousand torch said farewell in the name of his master.
       The guardian of the city left the planet – leaving the joy, peaceful trade and cooperation, and a restless shadow enduring the light.



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