Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rebirth of a Theocracy - Chapter III

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Hypnos

”Why is world history and evolution not stories of progress
but rather this endless and futile addition of zeroes. […]
So what are these barriers that keep people from reaching
anywhere near their real potential? The answer to that can be
 found in another question, and that's this:
 Which is the most universal human characteristic -
fear or laziness?”
Waking Life – Louis H. Mackey
      


      “If we are unable to act, we might as well just let them lead us,” said Raoul.
     Solaris nodded, and ceased control of the dream. The darkness lifted, and the scene begun to shift. Solaris and Raoul were observers without body, soaring through space and time, seeing what the writer of the simulation wanted them to see. 
     The vision they saw was the image of their beloved home. They saw from the sky the colony they lived in, with its highest tower, the tower of the orphanage in the center, with the Agoras between buildings, and the more distant districts, the spaceship necropolises, where the Earthborn cruisers served as houses, after they long forgotten how to fly. And all what they knew and loved so much rested underneath their feet haunted and still, without any souls wandering the streets. No cloudwalkers ascended to the skies.
     Raoul felt lucid again, felt his mind awakening within the dream. He departed from Solaris and flew between the buildings, seeking life to gather knowledge from them. The shops were alive, he saw constant movement within them from the streets, but all steps of the production have become automated unlike in his waking world. Out there people sought the cheapest labour, students having spare time, unskilled artists striving for success, whose employment was cheaper than setting up the mechanic arms. And when bosses offered lower wages in the hope of higher profit, the competition bid them up until wages reached near loss prices.
     Out there, one could always find someone willing to work, and someone wanting cheap labour, while competition set the prices. Within the dream mechanical arms and rails transported the goods from one side of the room to another, for it to be picked up by a claw taking products from the store to the delivery system.
     In the next store Raoul saw a human being, or at least he thought it’s a human, but its hollow skull was open from the top, nothing but walls of metal in the inside. When he looked in, an assistant drone who was arranging the products in the shelves quickly flew into the shell of the human being, the gate of its skull closing behind it. The human’s stare came to life, he waved and smiled at the customer outside.
     Raoul stepped in and greeted the assistant.
     “Where are the humans from this place?” he asked.
     “Welcome. Are you not from the colony, my friend? The residents spend most of their time dreaming within simulations, once a week or month they get to work, arrange orders, and sing back into the Dreamworld. And they just wither away and one day they don’t wake up anymore.”
     “Oh my god I’m shocked. It is terrible.”
     “Not that terrible if you think about it. We theorize that mankind reached an eternal state of life. Their time is counted in subjective hours, just when you sink back to your dreams to see visions for hours, only to wake up a minute or two later. They must be living millions of years.”
     “Why open stores then, if none will visit them?”
      “I believe that they will return to the real life. What would they do then without a store in the streets? And also no one buys the house if we move our stores out, since most sectors of the economy basically died, except for food, transportation and the Dreamworld. Maintaining this house costs almost nothing, we have our own generator anyway.”
     “So everyone just sleeps…”
     “It’s strange, isn’t it? They just started sleeping more and more, until one day they just stopped waking up daily. But I think it is just another trend on the rise, and will go away soon as they all do.”
     “I hope it will… I really do” said Raoul and left the building.

     He soared again, and dusk fell into the city. And the same city that Raoul loved so much to watch from his windows at night, to see the ever-awake life thriving within it, the city where once flames rose after sundown and all the people gathered to celebrate the greatness of life now slept still in darkness.
     “It is man’s dream to live free from the curses of the body, from the actions life requires from him to survive,” echoed a voice from the skies to Raoul. “Yet the true curse is that his goals will destroy him and those pressures of evolution that he so desperately wants to flee from are the ones sustaining his life.”
     “You hunt me, child, yet fail to understand me. I am the nightmare that’s keeping you alive. Without the threat I imply, your kind will fall into the slumber that you see all around you.”
     “Be vigilant, human. C
hallenge me with the mightiest weapon of your kind. Fight against me to reach your limits, to evolve and grow. Fight me with the Hell of the Vatican, until it purges me out of existence, and drives me off from the mind of my priests and pupils. That’s the only way to tide over me. And from the pure minds I left behind shall grow a new mankind, the child of technology and the explosive force of human potential.”
     “See it from yourself.”
     Raoul opened his eyes. The thief they were after laid next to him, slowly waking up. Solaris had already stood next to the man and scanned his mind.
     “His mind is being purged” he gasped. “I reclaimed the stolen memory, but his whole consciousness is collapsing, look at it.”
     Raoul was still disoriented but saw the unusual firing of neurons that the device in Solaris’s hand had shown. The temporal lobe was on fire, the prefrontal cortex was on fire, and all the parts of the brain responsible for memories displayed an activity never seen before. The synthetic technology in his brain was going through a hard reset, reconnecting to the web, purging existing memory banks.
     “Shouldn’t we stop it?” asked Solaris.
     “No, no. Show me his DNA, project it into my lenses.”
     The image projected into Raoul’s eye showed activity around the methylation and histone modification within the cells. His genome was being rewritten, destructive mutations switched off, others were being dialed up. Based on the new string of DNA he was given a new ID within the web and the Dreamworld, creating a newborn identity. The man who committed a crime had just ceased to exist before Raoul’s very eyes.
     Then the synthetic cortex of his brain began downloading data.
     Scientific data filled the man’s mind, literature of all kind from all branches of knowledge, from ethics through physics to history, then the upload of current news and events begun, the map of their planet, the detailed description of the residents of his colony, and in the end the data about living human life, knowledge about mental and physical health, the usage of his muscles, basic training in martial arts.
     The streaming of data stopped and the man woke up. 

***

     The Shaman immersed himself in a game with Lillian. They laughed as the girl, upon completing a challenging mental task involving basic scientific knowledge, turned into an imaginary scholar, and chased Cantharis the Mystic through the room; with a book in her hand, shouting facts that he refused to accept.
     Ana smiled, but her mind kept replaying the earlier discussion, in which between two playful moments with Lillian, his teacher offered a trip to her, Solaris and Raoul, his best students, to the distant simulation of the Vatican. His conscious mind rejoiced, but an unnerving feeling lurked deep within her subconscious. She wanted to think that she feels guilt for leaving her clockwork life, but it is no sin to pursue adventure. She thought of lone nights when she looked up statistics of her world, and saw decrease in population, an increase in crime rates, unwillingness to work for all was given to them, the lack of human progress within the last years. She saw the lifeblood draining out of the people she lived among, drip by drip, while they spent all their daily hours dreaming, roaming the simulated realms until they died, prematurely in their sleep.
     The anxiety she felt was the dread of returning not to her home, but to the ruins of what she once called the Kingdom of Liberty.
     “Education is a human right!” shouted the Shaman, fleeing.
     “You call for forced labour!” Lillian chased the Shaman.
     “No, no, no!” He screamed in a high-pitched voice. “I just want to help the poor!”
     He could not restrain laughter as he spoke. The girl cornered him at the entrance of the house.
      “You will stop telling lies to people, mystic!” she declared.
     Before he could beg for mercy, the door opened behind him and Lillian’s father found the legendary Shaman kneeling, covering his ears at his feet.
     “Daddy!” screamed Lillian, and jumped at her father who picked her up in joy while he went in. Cantharis stood up with laughter, and shook the father’s hand. He looked startled at first, but laughed at the unexpected scene.
     “It is an honor to meet you, Shaman,” he said bowing his head.
     “Do not subjugate yourself to me, good man,” Cantharis answered in a serious tone. “I feel frustrated by this. Of course my frustration should not affect your actions, but still, I did not work to tower above men. I am not king or emperor. I am a Shaman, pillar of the worlds.” The Shaman was a natural leader, and he hid a smile, trying to start a serious conversation, but his blue, laughing eyes betrayed him.
     “Well then, we are leaving” Ana interrupted their introduction.
     “No!” said Lillian. “We were having fun, daddy could join us!”
     “Yes, Anabelle” the Shaman smiled. “We are having fun, as long as we are welcomed here” he looked inquiringly at the father.
     “Well, of course. Lillian, would you let me take off my coat please? I’m about to melt away.”
     “Okay” she crawled down from his father’s chest.
     “Lillian” turned Ana to the girl “Don’t you think we should let them talk? I mean they’ve just met.”
     “Yes, they should get to know each other. Okay…” she sighed resignedly. “We’ll play soon anyway.”
     She took Ana’s hand, and they went into another room. She and her father played a game of simulation together when they were asleep. When they dreamed, the nanobots in their minds connected their neurons to the game server. They found themselves self-aware, yet dreaming in a fantasy world. His father protected the young elf befriending the creations of nature while he himself sought constant challenges. He had been playing since his childhood, and hoped that his daughter would level up soon so she could join him in the battles.
     The three of them, her mother, father and Lillian once lived through a war haunted year in dreamtime, which in reality took only a stormy, dark night. They fought legions of demons and wandered through the scorched planet seeking shelter. It was their way of forging the family bonds while facing death and darkness. Lillian was six, yet she was wise and tried to learn everything in every second of her life.
     Such were the children of Mars, raised in peace and blessed with the might of technology.
     “I still feel honored by your presence, Shaman” the father continued the line of their conversation. “You helped us transcend from violence.”
     “I just finished the job of the anarchists and libertarians before me. You honor what I stood for by treating your child equally and living a life of morality, Doctor Fischer. Your job as a parent is what makes this world work,” he smiled. “I have something to tell you. For a time unforeseen, Anabelle will not be available. We have talked it through with Lillian already, and she understood it. I hope it will not cause troubles for you.”
     “No, it won’t. We only need a caregiver one or two times a month for a couple hours. None of us were able to take her to work today, as we usually do. It would have been dangerous to her. She is our life, you know, but we chose not to leave our work since we both love it. My wife works ten hours a week, I only work eight; it gives us enough money to do what we want.”
     Cantharis nodded.
     “She is really smart though she is having troubles using some functions of her mind-expanding nanobots. I can share some practices we use in the academy when facing this problem.”
     “Yes, we are aware of that. That would be really good.”
     They spent some more time playing and engaging in conversations, until the time had come for the Fischer family to take a nap before Lillian’s mother comes home. She worked long that day, due to a business emergency. They wanted to be there for her when she returned, awake and caring.
     Cantharis and Ana waved at them, before the cloudwalker rose to the sky.
     “I wonder if she hates me. I mean Lillian,” she said thoughtfully, looking out the window.
     “What? Why would she?”
     “In such days when both of her parents are working, I in a way represent her loneliness. They are good parents, but sometimes such a thing happens and I have to come. I hope she won’t be affected by this. Neglect can really destroy a child’s brain. That is what happened with my mother.”
     “She loves you, Anabelle. The whole family does.”
     “Yea, you might be right. And now they love you too” she smiled.
     “In the end, he called me Cantharis” he said, and smiled as he watched the cityscape and the nearing academy. In his mind, he started to construct the elements of the next class, putting together his emotions and memories, creating a world with the enthusiasm of an artist, planning the rules and laws of the world, hidden in a planet of the vast Dreamworld.
     

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