Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rebirth of a Theocracy - Prologue


Before midnight, she was banished to hell; but before dawn, she dreamt of Eden. Oana Rain inhaled the clean urban air. She was two thousand feet above the ground on the roof of a skyscraper, one which was not yet afforested. She leaned over the barrier to get a better look of the world she inhabited, and saw the Martian metropolis, the lustful, green parks above the buildings, the pillars of the temporary space elevators connecting heaven to earth, pulsating with dim blue light, the cloudwalkers soaring between buildings in silence, and the Startrail square, embraced in eternal darkness, where thousands of humans had gathered to end the day with flames and dancing.
     It was the world she saw rising long ago from the unoccupied dust of Mars when she was a child. She watched the construction of the first colony from one of the hundred public starships that fled the Earth after the collapse of civilization. She watched as private ships settled down and their owners accepted the new soil as their home, she saw as her parents traded their skills and tools for gold, until the family was able to fund their own home.

     While her parents worked endlessly to secure a place amongst the denizens of the colony, to build a home for themselves in the newfound sanctuary of mankind, she wondered about what is it like to live outside the spaceship. She felt alone and fell into the embracing visions of her dreamscape each night sobbing, not understanding why her parents choose the company of others rather than hers. She buried her parents in his young adult years, believing that her loneliness was selfish and she was loved. Hence when her daughter was born, not acknowledging and experiencing her childhood suffering as valid and unjust, she found it natural to bury herself into her career. Her child – Oana thought – browsed the network all day, learning about life. 
     Oana Rain’s life and future collapsed the day when her child fell into a deep coma due to a neural virus infection that attacked her brain from the depth of the network. She never saw the bright green eyes of her little Annabelle again. 
     The way she treated her child has been exposed to the public. Her neglect became visible to the residents of the colony and her reputation diminished. “I will not buy from someone who deals with a murderer,” they said and so Oana Rain was banned from shops, roads, squares, from all parts of the colony. 
     Now she dreamt about the colony again. Unaware of it being but a mirage, her emotions overwhelmed her. Her eyes teared up in joy while she was watching the familiar landscape of the metropolis. A voice calling her name ripped her out of the enchantment of the city. She turned towards the voice behind her and saw the group of friends gathered to the dinner of celebration.

     “We were talking about you, Oana Rain,” said the man. Distant, raging thunders roared, following his words. She didn’t remember her teacher from the academy, but when their eyes met, the dreamscape of the dinner and the city faded away.
     “I need to tell you something,” he continued. “I had to break through the defense mechanism of the Vatican, and I’ve disconnected you from its servers for an instant. This,” he said spreading his arms, “is my dream.” 
     Oana looked around and saw the distant spiral arms of thousand galaxies in the dark space. It was the Shaman’s dream, the endless rage of the cosmos swirling around them. Each planet in each system homed simulations of life in the endless possibility of evolution. Now, as she had full access to her memories outside of the simulation, Oana remembered this fact from her past life in Mars, when she roamed the dreams of her teacher in classes.
     “Your master,” he continued, “Clark Novaris told me that your life ends today. You will be purified from the curse of this world that you choose to live in. You may return home from the simulation and fight for your sins to be forgiven. Cling to this when you wake up: righteousness is being a sinner in a world of corruption. ”

     The man vanished before she could answer, the dream started to fade, and the darkness of space turned into Oana’s home in the Vatican.
     Awaking to reality from a better world may easily crush the dreaming soul. It is the act of trying to escape the realm of truth and being banished from the desired. The waking mind fights to see just one more minute of Eden, but the dream expels the unfaithful. The memories will fade away and the dreamer will be left with nothing but the longing for the void in the first rays of sunrise.
     Oana buried her face in her pillow. The vision of the man and the distant roar of thunder became blurred, incomprehensible memories. The feeling of home, which imbued her with calmness in the dream, was now crushed by the pain of awakening. She lay in the bed feeling hopeless for minutes, lacking the strength to rise and the goal to move forward in life. 
     This curse of depression haunted her since childhood. She dragged herself from day to day in weakness without seeking medical help, a haunted shell of her true self without energy or purpose. Worthless, she attacked herself whenever she failed to succeed her expectations. Trying to do everything to avoid the anxiety of self-attack, she achieved greatness in her career as a musician, and the residents of her colony praised her compositions. Yet she failed, yet she was banished and she fled to Hell itself.
     Oana Rain became a composer in the Vatican, just as she was in Mars. She performed for the mass she despised. Music was banned in the Vatican. It was the art of the devil, they said. If she were to stand out in St Peter’s square and play the piece she played last night in the church, the girl would be sinning against the will of The Divine. Laws and morality were absolute and unquestionable until the ruling class wanted it otherwise, and Henoch wanted music, the very best of it.

     Only after she reached all the wealth and freedom that fame could offer she discovered the corruption inside herself. Only after the politician class of the Vatican praised her art she found the source of her madness inside her soul. 
     The rejection by her parents in her childhood – she found – was the cause of her self-attacks from which she tried to escape by endless achievements. Parental care has been taken away from her, and believing that she was unworthy of her parent’s attention, she found music to be the tool with which she can get the attention that all children so desperately need. 
     Without self-knowledge, neither respect nor title had the power to soothe her inner conflict; no worldly achievement could heal the scars of unprocessed trauma. So her first step towards purification started when she ceased feeding her demons and the demons of the political system and realized:

     „When you have more wealth than freedom, rebellion becomes duty, and solitude payment.”
     The last sentence of her dream rang again in her mind. 
     “Righteousness is being a sinner in a world of corruption” 
     Hope filled her, and with sheer willpower, she rose out of the bed.
     The smartmatter floor sent a signal to the central intelligence controlling the apartment. The floor started to warm up, the kitchen was already preparing breakfast and coffee. Before she left the room, she searched for pen and paper, and scribbled down the words spoken in her dream.

     The window looking at the waking city withdrew to its frame, and the walls started to play a slow and hollow song. The dome of St. Peter cathedral shimmered in the morning sunlight, and above it, the titanic Earth was still visible through the blue sky, where the last remaining residents of the planet were dreaming about space and their future in protection of the lightweb of the city.
     She knew the truth was different. Outside the virtual reality of the Second Vatican, humanity left the murdered planet decades ago. The Vaticanian server, the abandoned Hell, had been orbiting the Earth without occupants for a long time. The space station was a prison system once, welcoming guests from all around the world, but now, it was the sanctuary of the outcasts, the humans who were banished from the anarchist societies of Mars. They paid with their memories of the paradise to live in the statist theocracy to where their morality belonged.
     Oana collapsed onto the couch, and in the embrace of the hot blanket, she reached for the book on the floor. She found the massive, ancient volume to be a pillow so pleasantly uncomfortable that it allowed her to watch the simulated sunrise without sinking back to sleep.
     The creator A.I. did a perfect job in creating the world to the smallest detail. The outcasts wanted their world to feel authentic, and not a distant branch of the wide Dreamworld, the sum of virtual realities. Below the shield protecting the city from geomagnetic storms, the first clouds were forming. The holographic projector created the Earthlike atmosphere from bottom to top. Advertisements appeared between the clouds, echoing the will of the Pope, just like the white dove crossing through the air, a stalk of weath in her beak. In the wake of her wings, the name „Vatican Research Institution” before the vision disappeared.
     “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he hears the prayer of the righteous,” thundered the voice of Pope Henoch from the heavens. The word “righteous” made her laugh.
     “You know nothing of righteousness, Henoch,” she said.
     She drifted away from the world. Her mind was mapping the last dream she saw, while her eyes rested on the sky. More and more thoughts emerged from the ocean of her subconscious, the echo of a liberated world; an ancient Shaman, whose skin was sewn with lightning, and whose long, black coat ended in dark flames. Her subconscious salvaged the hope of redemption in death; the promise of returning to a forgotten home and however impossible, the wish to resurrect a murdered daughter.
     The world-shaking rumble of the bells reminded her of the fact that it was time to have breakfast.
     “Goodbye, Raskolnikov.”
     The heavy tome flew through the room and collided with the wall, bouncing off onto the couch unharmed. Oana stood up and rearranged the apartment which she wandered through while reading. Looking out the window, she read the time from huge, holographic numbers: eleven fourteen. She wouldn’t meet with bishop Novaris until six.
     She dressed without looking at what she picked up or how she looked. After all, it was her last day. Grabbing her black coat she stepped out of the door. She rushed through the corridor, through the closing door of the elevator and, seemingly defying the law of gravity, she slowly leaned against the wall.
     “Hi Oana,“ said a voice, to which she looked up.
     “Meito. Excuse me, I didn’t see you.”
     The boy forced himself to smile. He seemed to be the same age as Rain was, and they had been neighbors since anyone could remember. They saw each other every single day when they walked past each other in the building or in the city. After her concerts, among the countless flowers and gifts, she often found the book she had complained to Nakurami Meito about, about its rarity and the fact that she was unable to find it on the black market. She both admired and hated him for that. Somehow he managed to get the most blasphemous, rebellious writings from thinkers such as Rothbard or Bastiat, yet he did not use this ability for himself, he wasn’t more educated than the masses worshipping the state.
     “Where are you going?” asked the boy.
     “My plan is to walk around aimlessly and alone in the city.”
     Oana watched the reaction of the boy. Boy, because his bodily weakness and bent posture, the fear in his eyes and his words, over which all human beings have power and control, were crying for a mother and not for a lover. Rain loved to play with him, crushing his hopes, and watching his resignation. “Man is the only animal,“ she thought, “who is able to give up his desires and embrace the void.” 
     Though she found joy in this torture countless times, now she recoiled.

     “Or,“ the girl said slowly, thoughtfully, “we could go to a restaurant, provided that I choose which one.”
     “Really? Now?” The boy’s face lit up for a moment, and smiled, but then the joyful look vanished from his face. He crossed his arms and looked at her with disbelief. “How do you mean if you get to choose? Between what do you want to choose?”
     “Just trust me please and please be quiet,“ she whispered.
     He sighed. When the lift reached the ground floor, Meito stepped out first, and then turned to Oana. His hands were shaking.
     “No matter how I tried to reach you, Oana Rain…” he stopped, shook his head, and started again. “You are no better than I am, lost, lonely and weak. I see these traits in you and I don’t like the way you live. Thousands upon thousands would kill to get the life you live, and you should know that. You have a good life here, you have everything. Yet you say this world is unjust and corrupt. For this, I despise you. Yet I fell in love with your music. I am bound by it, addicted. I do not know your innermost thoughts, your favorite book, what breakfast you had, I don’t know if you are in love with someone, sometimes, to be honest, I don’t even get what you say, but I love your music. And your music is you, its pieces are yours, all notes come from you, and if I love that, I must also love you,” he said, and slowly exhaled. “It’s your turn,” he laughed. “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
     “Where did you get such courage, Nakurami Meito?” laughed Oana. She stepped out of the lift and stood next to the boy. “I’ll show you the place. And I’ll tell you who I am. But there can be nothing else between us.”
     They walked out in silence, and Meito called for a cab. Oana gave the destination and, after fifteen minutes of wordless travel, they stepped out of the car at the city’s periphery.
     “This is not good, it’s a dangerous region,“ the boy said.
     It was the region of the outcasts and the unbelievers. People deemed to be broken and defeated lived there, who left the downtown and moved to this unsurveilled, unregulated area. Some thought they choose their lifestyle to freely pillage their brethren.
     In truth, they were those who choose to join the simulation with their mind and memory intact. They knew reality and the reason why they were there. When they looked around they saw Martian criminals cheering for a State holding a monopoly over violence. They saw heinous child abuse being considered as normal. And exposing the nature of the simulation to those who choose ignorance would have been a breach of contract, resulting deportation back to Mars, where they are welcomed only by the desert.
     With the knowledge of freedom which awaits them in the outside world, and knowing that they themselves choose to be there in the augmented reality, they awaited redemption, the moment when they will be allowed to return to the nameless colony. They lived in smaller anarchist groups and worked on themselves, seeking mental health and self-knowledge to be able to uphold the moral rules of reality once they got out.      
     Behind the houses was the security system separating the city. The city was governed by its own creator artificial intelligence. The dreamers fed the mind with their imagination and subconscious world, and in turn, the A.I. intertwined all of their desires, and from the thoughts, ideas, notions of the inhabitants, it created the Second Vatican. Beyond the wall, the Dreamworld spread to infinity, as a formidable and controllable material to anyone who stepped through the city’s border.

     When the taxi disappeared in the distance, Oana started to walk towards one of the buildings. It was a grey block of concrete, at least thirty stories high, just as all of its neighbors. Its door was opened and most of the windows were shattered. Meito followed her closely, his gaze seeing potential danger in every shadow. They went through the empty, long corridor. She knocked twice on the door nearest to the stairs, then twice again. 
     “You sure this is the good place?”

     “Do you want to know what I’ve got to tell you?”
     “Yes, but I don’t want to end up robbed, bleeding out in an empty building.”
     “I will ask one more time.” She turned to him, after someone opened the door just a little, and looked at his eyes. “Would you like to know me, even if it has a price other than your life, liberty or property?”
     “Y-yeah, sure.”
     The door opened.
     “I need to tell you something. There is a paradise, but humans built it. Once you step in, I will tell you everything about it, but the price is the following. You have to agree to stay until you understand and hate the nature of our world and the choices that led you here. 
     What you hate you repel from yourself. If I would allow you to leave without this hatred Henoch would set fire to this place by midnight with your help. You are now a corrupt human being, but you will leave purified, just as I did from my master. I am showing you a way, Meito.”

     “Why exactly should I know these things about the world, or about myself?”
     In Oana’s mind, Meito slowly bled to death, but she took deep, long breaths, and repeated to herself You were just like him, Oana, remember, until she calmed down. She opened her eyes and smiled at him.
     “Meito, you should not know anything. Being ignorant is a choice that you are free to make. But be warned. Through the history of the universe, through billions and billions of years of this magnificent, titanic performance of life and physics you get the privilege to show up, act and shape the tale of our world. However infinitesimal, however invisible, you can step out of the commons and scream that you exist. Such an act of moral courage creates legends, sang throughout the time. 
     Your life is your own, and you have the right to do whatever you wish with it. But know that you have only one chance of stepping out into the stage of life and speaking the truth that may change the world. 
     If however you choose to act on the human potential that slumbers within you, you first need to know what is it that you will say in that moment of shining. You need to know and understand where are you, what are the rules of the both world you inhabit and the person you refer to as yourself. To change or have control over something, you first must understand it. This is why you should pursue knowledge.”

     Meito felt the surge of power rising within him. He felt the awakening of an ancient force within him accompanied by a nostalgic feeling from his childhood, from the times when he believed in his greatness. He looked at Oana, and nodded.
     “I’m with you.”
     She opened the door and Meito stepped in. The girl followed him, and closed the door, which melted into the coffee brown wall, then disappeared.

     Meito stood shocked from the sight. It was illegal, rebellious and lawless. The place was a high cafeteria with bookshelves around the walls, in which banned and forgotten earthen literature lay. An elderly lady was searching for something amongst them whilst holding the books of Mises, Rothbard and Friedman in her hands. In front of the entrance, a black man played a simple piano, and Meito knew he had no state license to do so. To the right, stairs led up to the balcony, where a young couple was talking above a candlelit dinner, and apart from them, the place was empty and dark. The fragrance of coffee filled the room. 
     Above the counter, a black and yellow, diagonally bisected flag was hanging. Black stood for anarchy, for the absence of any group holding monopoly over violence, and yellow stood for liberty.

     The boy followed Oana Rain while looking around. They sat down to a silent table, before them a holographic menu glowed to life.
     “I’ve read a novel once about such a place and people, and that didn’t end well. I have a bad feeling about this, Oana. I’m committing a crime just by being here, and I will pay for it.”
     “Nothing will happen unless you talk about this place.”
     He nodded slowly.
     “So,“ said the girl after ordering “I said I will tell you about the nature of our world, and I have evidence supporting all my claims.”
     “First the theory, and if it is coherent, then we’ll speak of the evidence.”
     Oana looked at Meito questioningly.
     “Sorry,“ he laughed. “My hand is shaking, and I’m becoming impatient, the scientist is curious in me. I haven’t felt like this in the institution since ages, and only now do I see that I really am interested in knowing more things, not just working in a lab. So continue, please.”
     “It is as if you have forgotten yourself, right? The things you like, where you are coming from and where you are going.”
     “Yeah… It is strange.”
     “The year we live in is two thousand and seventy five; we are in a space station orbiting around Earth.”
     He nodded.
     “The station is a virtual reality server mankind used as a prison. Decades ago, humanity left the Earth and terraformed Mars. A man called the Shaman gathered those who were committed to the non-aggression principle and they left Earth together just before mankind killed itself, and its home planet in a monstrous war. 
     They created colonies without any state or central authority, in which - “

     “Wait, it doesn’t work like that,“ he said, fighting his cognitive dissonance. “They cannot do that, the State is the foundation stone of every society. Without them, we are nothing but beasts killing each other.”
     “You may be, I am not. You see, if we truly are beast deeply inside, and it is human nature to be violent, how could you allow the existence of a State? Then it is nothing more but granting unfathomable powers to violent beasts who will use that strength to wage wars, murder and enslave.”
     “Well, but there are a lot of people who are violent, and they are peaceful only because there is a government.”
     “If there are some evil among mankind, won’t those evils be the first to seek office in a government, to use violence legally? And why do you need a monopoly over the initiation of force to stop petty thieves and murderers? Do you think that a competent, creative businessman can’t come up with a plan to catch them?”
     “So, as I was saying, they created the liberated colonies, in which the first rule accepted by all was the non-aggression principle. That is, no one has the right to initiate the use of physical force against other human-like beings. No state, no borders, anyone is allowed to join, but those who violate the first principle will be outcast, banned from private properties, stores, hospitals, everything, and he will be looked at as an illness, a plague. 
     Meito, we are the outcasts. We are the ones who violated that principle, and the reason we are here in the Vatican is that we belong here philosophically, this is our moral home. We had accepted this fate, and, you know,” her voice broke off, “this is the worst thing of all. It was our choice to live in a world where we are oppressed, our children are controlled by fear, and forced to believe, and we all must serve.
     If you go and ask for the bartender, they managed to acquire a copy of the contracts signed to join the Vatican. You will find yours among them. There is also a kind of meditation that will wake you up to the real world for a moment to access your real self.”

     Meito was silent for a long time, digesting the information, then spoke softly.
     “More and more people come out as atheists, and you know that. They are not killed or anything. This world is not that bad. It could be worse, right?”
     “I’m sorry for being too harsh with you. I know this is a hard topic, but I don’t have much time left. I am going to leave this city, and before that, I’m trying to bring some change. I have no time for empathy.”
      “Yes, you are right,” she continued. “There are some who do not believe in the deity worshipped in the church. But I tell you Meito, apart from these people who are frequent at this place, each member of the society is a believer. 
     They believe that a metaphysical concept has the right to rule, is above any moral law, its words are sacred and its enemies will suffer eternal damnation. This being cannot be sensed in the physical reality, yet all thinks it is their duty to obey its will. It is blamed, and they ask it for blessings. Sometimes, when the boat of life draws them toward dangerous waters, they despise it and curse it, but after a while the lost lambs return to the shepherd. We give up our rights to property and life and freedom, just to put the weight of our fate upon the shoulders of this being, to do the dirty work instead of us, serve us goods we do not deserve, and cast to hell the sinners.
      This is the great, unspoken truth of the modern world, that it is theocratic. The only difference, Meito, between an atheist and a believer is that the former calls its god ‘the State.’”

     “But…“ he shook his head. “What you say is true, but for some reason I refuse to accept.” He seemed puzzled. “But you know, I have my own evidence for some of the things you say about the simulation. For example, do you know what we research at the institution? We do nothing. Nothing, I’m telling you, as long as we do not talk about it, we are safe, and we’ll get our paycheck. And the strangest thing is that there are technological advancements, even though we do nothing. I’ve been a scientist since I can remember, but I cannot be one here, and only now do I see how much I want to be one” he leaned back, and said in an almost inaudible voice “ I thought these were unanswerable questions, so I didn’t paid any attention to them. I asked myself “how could I know?” and shrugged it off. But tell me, Oana, why is it Vatican?”
     “Look, men either accept the rational or the irrational as absolute guidance. Those who accept irrationality are living the world of illusion and have no connection to reality. They are the violent men, as Ayn Rand said, the only means they can achieve their goals is by brute force. And I tell you this: faith and violence are twinbrothers; whilst aggression is the physical, belief is the mental destruction and oppression of the self. 
     Our mind is not perfect, and if you plant irrational fear into a child, it will be his absolute, his driving force, and the child will grow up, and as an animal ever-trembling in the corner, fearing the untouchable, shapeless entity, will attack with each interaction. 
     You see, from the soil of faith, grows the tree of violence. Reality works through rational laws, not through violence. Faith corrupts the mind. The reason why it is Vatican is that we are all corrupted.”

     “And what is the right thing to do?”  he whispered, looking at his hands.
     “Righteousness is being a sinner in a world of corruption” answered Oana.
     A silver drone served the dinner. Oana and Meito continued talking for a long time, the air was filled with the scent of coffee and cigarette, and in the background, the man played an old melody while every now and then, he glanced at the girl. The music he played was Oana’s first score. 
     Dusk settled when they left the building. Meito called a cab, and when it disappeared, Oana sighed in relief. She returned to her thoughts where the memory of her dream awaited her in patience, and reminded her that it is almost time to go.

     The streets were empty. The sunset painted the holographic clouds and the buildings orange and purple. She was alone with her solitude; others did not dare to step out without the company of friends and family. Oana crossed the Saint Peter square, and before she disappeared between the pillars embracing the place, she saw a man, and next to him was his wife, shouting at his child. The woman was nodding endlessly. Oana smiled, she searched for her gloves in her pocket, and started walking toward them.
     “How dare you contradict my will, you disgusting piece of shit.”
     With fist clenched, he struck down the crying little child who hit the ground in an instant, his skull started to bleed from the fall. He cried for help, for someone. Her mother loomed over her, and stepped on his throat.
     “One more sound and I swear I will murder you.”
     Oana’s palm dove deep into the woman’s stomach, and the miniature thrust engines built into her glove fired, launching the woman off of the boy’s neck, until her back collided with a stone pillar, then she collapsed to her knees. 
     Rain found the gloves years ago in the black market, and it cost a fortune. She had never used it, but maintained its functionality and took care of it daily, and she carried it around in her pocket ceaselessly. Now she felt that each moment of the last years spent caring with the gloves, and the money from which she would have been able to buy a house, was worthwhile. A life of an innocent child is worth every trouble. She turned to face the father, behind him the child was gasping for air.

     “I will kill you if anything happens to him, understood?”
     The man swallowed, and stepped back with shock in his eyes.
     “What do you think of yourself?” shouted Oana. “You, disease of our world, who are awakening the demon of violence over and over, generation to generation. It is unforgivable. You have become perpetrators from victims. Look at him,“ she screamed, pointing to the child, who was grabbing her coat. “Look at his eyes and know that you are the reason why he’ll become a criminal, a sick, insane and contagious person, just like you. Look at me, and swear he won’t get hurt again, or I will kill you otherwise.”
     “I-I swear,” he said.
     “I’ll keep an eye on you.”

     Oana turned to the child and took his small hands. She whispered to him, so the parents could not hear her.
     “You will be safe for a while. If you are afraid of them, find Bishop Novaris, okay? Remember, Bishop Clark Novaris, and give this to him. He will help you.”
     She put a bracelet into of his pocket with a steel medal inside. The medal showed the symbol of the vaticanian anarchists; the letter A divided vertically, forming a cross with the horizontal line. She hugged the sobbing boy, and watched them go home without looking back.
     A chill ran down her spine. Her senses became weaker, her sight blurred and her ears were ringing, the dinner in her stomach turned into poison and she felt as if it was trying to gnaw itself out of her. She felt the world spinning. She dropped to one knee as a cold, rough voice addressed her.
     “Oana Rain”
     Urban legends speak about what it is like to meet an archangel, what it feels like when a law enforcement agent finds you, but none of them say a word about such torture. The being spoke again.
     “I am bound to banish you to hell for your sins, but I will not, not today.”
     As an answer, Oana roared with agony.
     “You are an important person, and His Holiness wants you to stay here as a composer. You have attacked an innocent person, which is wrong, but they have survived. Your sins are forgiven, but one more mistake, and the hounds will get you.
     “Innocent?!”  she spit the words out. “They were not…”
     “What could you do? The child is their property, it is their right to use it as they wish” said the voice with indifference.
     The being disappeared, and she slowly regained her health. She just sat there, on the cold ground of the square, for minutes, and then looked up; the snow had begun to fall. She reached in her pocket and took out a piece of paper, read the words of her dream, and threw it away hoping that someone will find it, someone who is worthless in the eyes of the system, and will not be spared for the punishment he deserves for speaking the truth, and doing what he thinks to be right.
     She sniffed, and got up. The wind shrieked, so she closed her coat, and, with steps hastened, continued her walk below the pillars of the square and between the houses thereafter. She got to an alley, and opened the door in in which an anarchist circle-A was painted. The echo of her steps knocking on the marble travelled through the staircase. She followed the painting with her finger, depicting the hell from the ground level through the Garden of Eden, and the Heaven next to the door of the apartment. She knocked twice, twice again, and then opened the door.
     That was the first time she saw the bishop without his official dress. Clark Novaris wore a black protection vest sewn with nanothread. The material stretched to his perfectly built muscles, even though he was close to seventy. He wore black trousers and leather boots, while his gaze jumped from suit to suit in his wardrobe.
     He looked at his student, hummed while stroking his long, white beard and turned back to his clothes.
     “You are not seeking harmony, Oana” he said. “The higher you climb, the further you are from your roots.”
     “I have no roots, past or memories.”
     “What are you talking about?”
     They looked at each other, both wearing the same puzzled look on their face.
     “What are you talking about?“ Oana asked.
     “Why, about your clothing, of course.”
     She looked at herself, the black boots she wore, only its end visible below the long, blue skirt. Then the brown shirt, the silver medallion she always wore and the white scarf above it.
     “It is perfectly fine” she said, and closed her coat, covering everything except for the boots and the white scarf.
     “Yes! This is perfect,” the bishop said.
     He found a black gown, and before he dressed up, the vest withdrawn from his back, and Oana saw his neural implant covering the spine, and branching off towards the hands at the shoulder. In its two sides, hundreds of scars spoke about the past of Clark Novaris. He turned to the girl with a smile on his face, and walked beside her, while a drone flew in through the window looking at the city. He put his arm around her shoulder and they looked at the drone, whose objective eye blinked lazily.
     “It’s worth making some moments eternal even in our world, don’t you think? I hope you didn’t blink.”
     “I didn’t have the chance to do so.”
     The bishop laughed, and picked up the freshly printed photos from his desk, while the drone flew away.
     “Good, good,“ he handed one of the pictures to Oana. “You and I are became a family since the first time we met.”
     Oana answered with a smile, while watching the photograph.
     “Knowledge is my family. You taught me this one.”
     “My home,“ he corrected her. “Home is the world, and the family is the inhabitants. And I do tell you, we have the chance to create our own world and its residents, if you are willing to pay the price for it before. Oh and by the way, today I can’t talk to you for a long time, I hear the calling of” he stopped, and stared at his desk.
     “Calling of… nature? Duty?”
     “No, it is nothing,” he shrugged, and started to arrange the things on his desk. He tossed the hundreds of pages he wrote into the fireplace, put every pen into the drawer, and covered the holographic projector.
     “So,” said Oana, “This morning I was reading book you required”
     “How do you like it?”
     “I do not. I do not understand how I am supposed to enjoy the private life of a thief and a killer. I see enough of them around me.”
     “Yes, you are right. It is strange to think about it, but the writers of the past preferred to create corrupt people instead of heroes. They made monsters, murders and criminals, instead of setting an example of righteousness.”
     “Righteousness… I’ve heard this word way too many times today. A man appeared in my dreams and told me about it, and he promised that the time is near when I can leave this world. And before I arrived, I saw a man beating his child, so I stopped him, and wounded his wife badly. Really badly, I saw her bleeding.”
     “And?” he asked, still stroking his beard.
     “And I’m still here. Nothing happened. I wanted to die, to get out of this world.”
     “No you don’t,“ he said. “You have no idea how painful it will be. It is not like this simulation, nor a jail sentence that has ended. The pain of isolation that you’ll need to endure will be unbearable. One or two companies maybe lifted their ban of you, but the majority of the colony did not. The people will look at you as a freak, as an infected, disgusting parasite. You will need to prove to them one by one that you have changed. Here, you have a decent life, friends and career. Is this what you want? Are you willing to sacrifice everything just to move forward?”
     The following events seemed unreal to her. She watched in shock, in paralysis as the incomprehensibly fast movement of Clark Novaris, as he picked up the knife from the table, put it into the girl’s hand and stabbed himself in the chest, driving it through his heart and spine. The first waves of reality flooded her mind when the warm blood started to flow through her fingers, while the lifeless body of her master collapsed into the floor, and her world begun to fade.

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