Sunday, October 11, 2015

Rebirth of a Theocracy - Chapter VIII

 Chapter VIII

Enemies of the Nightmare

“A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.”

 Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

     A new day dawned to Mars and the men who lived on the Red One once again begun to act. The planet looked peaceful from above, judged from the sight that Raoul saw. His mighty city was sealed away from strangers under a crackling shield of lightning.
     Oana Rain looked into the dawn. She felt hopeful toward the day. Another day that might bring her entrance to that harsh world, a challenge to overcome that will echo her name through the unforgiving homeland, and act to display virtues that may result in a few kind words from strangers, and after infinite repeats, she may be welcomed in the streets below the apartment she was given, not caged like a beast by the security system, she may roam the agoras freely once more, and at last her daughter will state her terms of mercy, to which she will mutely comply.
     The world itself was quiet, people slowly begun to rise, but their assistants had already been working before that. They arranged, shipped items, opened the door for delivery drones, and arranged again. They checked breaches within the home’s system of defense, and rushed back to pack and ship things again. They got their orders from their sleeping owners. People roamed market dreamworlds, simulations of crowded traditional markets or steel and glass, high malls where they were free to set up their own shops, to trade and look for items they desired.
     Most were immersed in the preparation for war, so they made money out of unused goods they owned. A few bought those cheap goods, and used their money to prepare for the coming rebirth of their world, when they will sell the objects bought under the chaos with a much higher price than they purchased. The money they paid went mostly towards insurance firms from the hands of those who sold their goods, and those firms offered unfaltering security in return, both to their houses and to the city itself in general.
     Weapons were also well-sought. The Celebration of Singularity arrived just in time to arm the public, the faire where scientist presented what they found and how technology embraced those findings. But the faire was set in real life so the square in which it stood slept vacant in the morning.
     The colonials slowly opened their eyes, and the lenses in it projected the latest news to them. All of them read one article named ‘The True Reason Why The Bells Toll,‘ that spread quickly in that morning. It was written by the ethicist Yrra Carson, employed by Dr. Alan Wordsmith.

     “There is a chaos within the system. However all that’s been happening since the return of Dr. Wordsmith is but the effect of this chaos. 
     This singularist cult led by Solaris Midsummer poses a grave danger to our culture. Solaris was an orphan fleeing a war-torn colony of the outside. He came here, but was too late to him. There is a time frame, in which a child can be saved from further scarring, and his tragic fate exceeded that limit.
     His mind was broken, and the orphanage of Dr. Wordsmith tried to help him. We know not the amount of support Solaris received when he lived in the orphanage, and whether the faculty tried everything it could to stop his mental disintegration. These are the questions that Dr. Wordsmith and the Shaman must face from insurance firms and from the public.
     What we as a nation of reason must focus on is: what flaw within our system made possible the thriving of a mad cult?

     Religion may be one. The first time the modern version of Shamanism was called a religion, its believers shrugged and accepted it as such. But the laws of this belief were derived from the people’s rapture towards the Shaman, what he stood for, and from the concept of Transcendence, not from a Holy Scripture or revelation, so it has never been precisely defined. This issue allows the spread of ideologies destructive to mankind under the guise of virtue, just as it did with the cult of Hypnos.
     This observation must be made. And the most crucial preliminary action that must be taken in order to avoid the catastrophe occur twice is to settle a clear, universally preferable definition of the Shamanism that is aligned with the virtues of the Shaman and holds up Transcendence as the goal of Shamanism.
     If we define Transcendence as ‘an event of historical explosion triggered by the accumulated life experience of an individual gained through virtuous behavior, which results in significant personal alterations and has major, objectively measurable interpersonal or cultural impact,’ formulated by Cantharis de la Cruz himself, the definition of Shamanism may be derived from this meaning. But I believe – being one of the followers of Shamanism as well – that I do not need to concentrate my mental powers on this issue for that Transcendence occurs constantly within the human network, like cocoons throbbing, growing in the net of our culture only to one day open up and thrive, transcend mankind with it, and one day such event will bring about the crystal clear definition of Shamanism, purging all the leeches out of it.

     Technology may be one. We live in the mad dream of Ray Kurzweil, as our devices and our world itself requires us to be in the mindset of constant forgetting and learning, adapting to new marvels of engineering for a week or two, before it is dethroned by a greater, more powerful design. We buy our gadgets with instructions uploadable into our minds. We rely on our assistants and burden them with menial tasks whose devoted servitude helps us focus our creative brains towards questions requiring more than matching patterns.
     And in this very moment when I conjure up these sentences takes place the Celebration of Singularity, our greatest annual tribute to our science. We marvel at the synthetic creations, ride those Drakes that made a killing in the market, at evening feast and talk with the great minds behind all this, only to go home and sink back into the infinite Dreamworld, and connect into a server that houses wonders.
     And when before the first rays of sunlight we open our eyes into a new day, and we listen to the sounds of our home devices in the dark room, and let our thoughts wander through the hidden planes of our minds without fully waking, we recall the events of the past days, we see the dark room as something vicious, seeing shadows in the dim light, and with every noise our heart begins to pound like drums, the drums of war that travel through the colony as drought, we shiver and jump up awake and aware, when we hear the name of Hypnos whispered in our mind.
     We yearn for freedom; we yearn for whatever possible limitlessness our devices could bring about, yet we dread it when it finally arrives and bears the face of a dark god. We thought of something tender, something that will enter our life with a painful surgery to lift us from matter into the domain of synthetic, or nanodrones changing us from the inside, rewriting us cell by cell into something that is not technology, but not quite human.
     Let us not fall into the trap of blaming the trigger of a gun instead of the free will that commanded the tool into action. Let us also note that morality will not speak regarding those concepts that the singularists hold as their end. Morality cannot judge the value and rightness of an evolutionary step, it has nothing to say about whether a gene mutation is moral or immoral.
     Morality may judge however the means Hypnos takes to achieve its ends. We may not say it is evil to join an interconnected meta-consciousness and see the world through its eyes, but we may say that it is vile to force the adherents to participate, and slaughter mercilessly those who wish to quit such union, whether they contractually agreed to it or not. We have written about such case in our previous issue.
     Morality may also judge the act of deceiving distant populations, who seek desperately a leader who will lead them through their dark times brought about by the economic collapse due to the inability of economic calculation in their communist colonies, and persuading them that we, the capitalists are the reason of their misery, and making them wage war against us.
     In truth, there lies the source of our current epoch of madness. There in the existence of those worlds that committed collective suicide under our absence. We are in no way responsible for their failure. We are not guilty for grasping that their system could not work, and creating a thriving free market onto the crystal basis of universal morality. We accepted all who sought to become part of our world, educated them and embraced them into our culture.
     And still, the fact that we have chosen not to help actively our ‘comrades’ after the settlement on Mars, and watched them starve and struggle without empathy, exclaiming that they are exercising free choice while suffering the consequences of economic laws, turned us into doctors, who - after developing a cure for the worldwide epidemic – sit back and await the ill in their crystal tower, while the world slowly succumbs to
pestilence.
     I feel it is not right. But I wish to
emphasize that not a single human being has the right to impose involuntary positive obligations or duties to another human being, and therefore I cannot logically say that we are ‘collectively sinful’ or ‘guilty’ in this matter. No. But the following must be stated:
     We are facing dark times. We will shed blood in the act of self-defense as a community; we will wreak havoc to the neighboring realms of Hypnos if we must. And after we emerge victorious from the battlefield, and the haze of war rises from our confused judgement, and we look at our hands bathed in blood, and our brothers lying on the scorched land, we must remember that a philosopher not sharing his wisdom pushes the world into chaos; that the tortured, starving masses who see a divine kingdom of prosperity will raze that city to the ground; and that the payment that the present’s inertia demands is the life and future of those whose souls we choose not to save and fight for.“
     The common men read it, and it had a great impact on their soul. As a consequence, the businessmen read it, for that it had a great impact on the soul of their clients, and when those clients shifted their moral demands towards their tradesmen, those who paid no heed to the conscience of their consumers have found themselves alone in their empty shops, surmounted by their rivals.
     People wanted solutions, peaceful conflict resolutions, channels of communications between them and those who might not be truly lost. Scouting parties volunteered to venture, to gather knowledge about Hypnos, about the technology to be disrupted, to reach the mind of adherents. The volunteers were young, powerful, mostly males from richer backgrounds who seek adventure in life.
      Discussions about the Shamanism arose. Thinkers seeking greatness sought to derive a definition from the origins of the faith, from the virtues of a shaman, and from the requirements of Transcendence. The questions too arose towards the warden of the orphanage, who in duty opened all the files to public that mentioned Solaris, and answered all the questions with great patience and care. He too wanted to know if he made a mistake.
     Oana Rain read it, and paced back and forth in the apartment of Solaris, that he left there for the outcast to use. She was thinking of ways of action that would benefit the city and her. She stopped, and looked around. There was clean order in the room. Order that spoke of no human who lived here, belongings that seemed as if they have never been used, clean and sparkling floor, the couches looking at the holographic display, seemingly untouched.
     But they were not untouched – Oana thought and the face of the young man appeared before her mental eyes, the way that he appeared in his nightmares. When they met, she was grateful. By the end of that day, when the news shocked the populace, and all knew the name of Solaris Midsummer, and the deeds of the cult Hypnos, and the murderous crimes of the cult Hypnos that has been revealed, she trembled alone in the dark room, her mind succumbed to fear, when the closeness of death was clear to her eyes.
     Someone knocked on the front door.
     She gasped. She froze. She pressed her palm against her mouth but couldn’t act. Her racing heart slowly calmed down and she lowered her hand, waiting.
     Someone knocked again, this time even harder.
     “Solaris!” called a voice from the outside, a firm but gentle voice that calmed the fears of Oana Rain. She hurried to the door and opened it.
     Raoul looked at her in shock for a second, not knowing who she was. But the expression of stupor faded, and he smiled in relief.
     “You’re the outcast who Cantharis wanted to help, right?”
     “Yes I’m Oana Rain,” she said and wanted to extend her hand. But the corridor was a forbidden place to her, and she realized that. So she took one step backward and extended her hand inside the apartment, smiling a painful smile. And Raoul saw through it. Raoul saw what that smile means; that she is living here like a dog locked into a cage, and cannot go out, not even out within the building to meet her neighbors, to reach for anyone who could help her out. And within that painful smile hid the soul of Oana Rain that said ‘though I am confined for my past sins, and I am paying for my crime, I will fight ’til all is right.’
      “My name is Raoul Seoc,” he shook her hand. “Is Solaris at home?” he asked, and saw the smile vanish from her face.
     “What’s wrong?” he asked.
     “Raoul,” she said with trembling voice. “Have you not seen the news in the last days?”
     “No, I just got back from the Vatican. I have yet to subscribe back to the web,” he said but felt a growing dread within his heart. “Why, what happened? Where is Solaris?”
     “Raoul… come in, I will tell all what happened since you were gone.”
     Raoul listened and did not care that the hot tea burned his hands. He did not weep, nor did he lash out, act out his anger in pointless destruction. He just listened, asked the questions patiently that rose in his mind, and when he heard all the events that happened in the recent days, he just leaned back and watched the steam ascending from the tea.
     “How do you feel?” asked Oana.
     “I… I feel confused. I mean… I just don’t understand how all this happened without me noticing, or anyone noticing. I do not feel any grief yet, but I will need to mourn my friendship with him. We were friends… all through… all through I searched for Hypnos who killed my parents, he was my friend.”
     “Oh my god, Raoul,” she gasped. “That is so terrible. I am so sorry you have to go through all this.”
     “Yea, I guess. But I feel kinda empty, you know. I mean I know, or I think I know how I should feel, but I don’t really feel it. I am not sad, I’m not angry; I’m just… shocked by all this. I mean before we were gone, he helped me find Hypnos. But I see now it was nothing but a trap, or a lie, or who knows what it was, a plan to distract me from his works, I have no clue. But still, literally that day when we set off, Hypnos talked to me about his plans. And so it was Solaris then… I just don’t understand, you know, I don’t get how he ended up like this. But I really want to know how.”
     “I’ve read about it somewhere, but I’m interested in your views on the subject: did he have a dire childhood?” Oana asked.
     “Yea. Oh yea he did. I mean… he was born outside this world in a different colony, and he fled that city when some chaos ensued. Before that he was beaten, he was yelled at, he was neglected, all the dark stuff. He basically travelled on foot through the desert to get here, ‘following tales of freedom’ as he put it, looking for the colony his people sometimes mentioned in hate. He was around six at that time. So he lived his first five years, when most of his personality develops basically in a nightmare. And it seems he didn’t make it out.”
     “So you were friends? What was the first time you met him?”
     “Oh yea that was…” he remained silent, his heart rending in sorrow.
     “How do you feel, Raoul?”
     “I feel sad,” he whispered. “I really loved that little guy,” his voice broke off, and he buried his face into his hands, weeping, mourning the friendship he never had. He cried without shame or concern about others in that moment, not trying to subdue the choking pain he felt in his chest.
      “I always thought we were great friends…” he said after calming down. “I admired his resolve. But to know that he then long succumbed to that darkness that he held true… What I admired was not strength, but the illusion of courage put up to cover the void… the empty shell of his soul that he sold. Poor Ana when she’ll know it.”
     “Who is she?”
     “She’s his girlfriend, or was, I guess, Annabelle Mionar.”
     Oana gasped.
     “That’s… She’s… She’s my daughter.”
     “Well,“ answered Raoul, raising his eyebrows, “Then I guess we are both in deep shit.”
     “Do you know her? What is she like? Is she all right? Oh my, did she love Solaris? Do you think she knew he’s Hypnos? Will she survive if she’ll know it?”
     “No, she won’t. She is a wonderful human being; I mean she really is, she has a great heart. She is really concerned with learning more about herself, healing her wounds.”
     “I though she is dead. I really did. She fell into a coma…”
     “Yes, I know about that. Do you know what happened with her afterwards?”
     “No, tell me.”
     “Hm…” he stopped for a moment. “No. This was enough shock as of today for both of us. I will tell you later, I swear, but you do not want to hear it now. And please respect my choice in this; let us not ruin our newfound friendship with a petty disagreement. But I can tell you more about who she became.”
     “All right,” she sighed. “Please do tell.” 
     Raoul talked about Ana Mionar, she listened, asked questions and noted everything. She was not simply curious; the hunger in her eyes, the attention that forbids even blinking told Raoul that her existence as a moral being depended on this knowledge. And they talked exchanged their lives afterwards, for long hours until midday arrived, and the residents of the nameless colony returned home for a dinner with their friends and family.
     “I will get some food for us, and I should contact my assistant,” Raoul said, and said goodbye to Oana Rain. He hurried down in the staircase, watching the neural interface to reboot, looking at the displays of the outer world and using the small amount of cash stored in the hard drive of his brain, resubscribing to the web. 
     “Yes, Raoul, I’m really glad to have you back,” a voice resonated in his skull, a voice that instantly answered his call. “Have you heard the recent events after your departure?”
     “Yes I have.”
     “I’m sorry about all this. Rade Nightwood keeps calling me if you have arrived, maybe you should contact him today. I’m sending you the most important articles and news that arose in the past days. Dr. Wordsmith wrote a long one, detailing his experience outside this world, Yrra Carson wrote today one which had a great impact on social life, I suggest reading that first.”
     “All right, any, less important subjects?”
     “Your last catch of Hypnos got quite an attention, and a lot of people came asking for your investigation. I summed the whole thing up, published them in one deal in limited amounts, attaching second grade copies of the original memories that I accessed through the cloud. I made quite a sum of money for us, you know.”
     “Nice, you sold them all?”
     “Yes, and there is no further demand for it really, all information has been published by the buyers.”
     “At least there is one good report. You know, I don’t know what has happened with this world. It used to be a place in which people are actually happy, they considered happiness to be a virtue, and now it is as if all became dark and depressed.”
     “There is hope in the world, my friend. We are still much better off than any of your ancestors through history.”
     “I know… I just want to go back to the old days.”
     “I believe you wish to return to the days of your childhood, Raoul. Also, I sense that your testosterone level is too low, which might contribute to your feeling of mild depression. I am modifying a combat shell for the purpose of scouting the activities of Hypnos in the neighboring colonies. It’s a thriving business now, and I was thinking if you’d accompany me.”
     “When, today?”
     “Yes, this afternoon. We should hurry and end this conflict as soon as humanly possible.”
     “I was thinking of resting, I just came home. I feel completely exhausted.”
     “Testosterone, my friend. Supplement it.”
      The AI ended the call. Raoul put out a sign in the net indicating that he is looking for a drive to the Graveyard of Ships, and seconds later a cloudwalker descended from the skies. And while the driver took him to his destination, he read through the article of Yrra Carson.
     Rade Nightwood was firing up the engines of his ship. The mighty, grey starship’s maneuvering engine blazed with blue fire and then it stopped. The engine rotated and turned all the way possible to it, and then it stopped moving.
      Raoul paid and stepped out of the cloudwalker. He felt the life from the Graveyard of Ships, the force once ripping through the land, missing. The Graveyard was silent, no children laughed; music did not fill the airwaves, and the first weeds begun to conquer the green gardens.
     Rade stepped out of the ship to greet him. They shook hands, and the firm handshake ripped Raoul out of his dark thoughts. He had to grab the man’s hand with his iron grip not to let him crush his palm into fine dust.
     “Oh my,” he gasped. “Is it some new upgrade?” Raoul asked.
     “Maybe it is.”
     “What for?”
     “To wage and win a war, my son.”
      “With whom?”
     “I don’t know yet, there are enough young men eager for adventure, I’m sure they will accept into their team an old veteran from Earth.”
     “And what’s with Kynia?”
     “She moved to downtown to live with one of our sons.”
     “And so the restaurant is closed?”
     “Why, you don’t trust my skills as a cook?” he laughed. “I have a lifetime worth of meal prepared and frozen, you can take any of them if you want. Come.”
     Raoul followed him to a chamber deep inside the starship.
     “So that boy who was your friend turned out to be a psycho, eh? You know, I had a strange feeling that time I met him, as if… I don’t know, he was creepy in some way but I couldn’t explain why.”
     “I have never been able to see deep into him… Maybe there was nothing to see but shadows.”
     “Guess he was better than to reveal himself. And what will you do now? You always wanted to banish the cult of Hypnos; I thought you’ll charge right into it the first time you get this chance.”
     He wanted to reply but a message that appeared in front of his eyes distracted him from speaking.
     “A moment, got an urgent message.”
     Oana Rain wrote to him. She asked for a favor from him, a shopping to be repaid in the future.
     “So there is this girl,” Raoul said, “or rather woman but she looks like she’s twenty. She’s the mother of Ana, the girl who was with us last time.”
     “Oh yea I remember. Wasn’t she an orphan?”
     “Yes, her mother just returned from the Vatican, and she is trying to build up her reputation from the bottom. She just sent me a shopping list, she says it is really important and she could pay back thrice once she’ll have the chance.”
     “I wouldn’t trust a banished.”
     “I think she is trustworthy; we talked a lot today. But, look at the list she sent me.”
     He forwarded the list to Rade.
     “That’s rank one weaponry right there, mostly. Though those whips are commonly used by musicians…”
     “She was a musician.”
     “Maybe she wants to go heavy-metal, I don’t know, ask her.”
     As they focused on the eye-interface visible only to them, they looked as philosophers contemplating under the dim blue light of the ship. The text arrived shortly after asking, and Oana Rain answered “I will go and join the battle against Hypnos.” Raoul felt despair that he communicated to Rade.
     “My assistant is leaving. You are leaving. Oana is leaving, even though I only met her today. I feel like I’m losing the world I live in.”
     “Raoul,” he answered, “why the hell will you not come with us? This is literally what you always wanted to do.”
     Raoul did not answer.
     “Look,” he tried again. “I know you had it rough. And that you are still having a hard time finding your voice in the world. But look at yourself from the outside. You have strength, you have a mind even I would love to have, you warned us about Hypnos even before this all thing came into the surface, and now when the fruits of your labor are ripening, you back down? Will you stand back and watch as your community wins a war against the man that killed your parents?”
     Raoul looked up, and the veins in his neck begun to glow blue. The synthetic gland in his brain began working again to his command. His muscles grew, almost ripping through his brown skin.
     “I have no idea what was wrong with me,” he said. “Let me make a couple calls.”
     The voice of his assistant in his new shell echoed in his skull.
     “How can I address you?” Raoul asked.
     “The name of this synthetic body is Commie-Buster.”
     “What?” Raoul laughed. “Really?”
     “Yes, this is the name it answers. Note that it was named for combat, not political discussions, and the creators wanted to give an aura that boosts the morale yet focuses on the goals of the current combat.”
     “Very well, Commie-Buster. I’ll be sending you a list of groceries that you should get as soon as possible. Have you found yourself a group yet?”
      “Not yet.”
     “Would you join mine?”
     The android hesitated, and then answered.
     “I’d be honored to fight alongside such a great friend as you are, Raoul.”
     “Very nice. Then you are on the boat. Get those items to the apartment of Solaris Midsummer and Ana Mionar in an hour, I’ll be there waiting for you. I’ll gather the forces and then we will create some synergy before we go. Okay?”
     “Okay. It’s good to have you back.”
     He ended the connection. Raoul initiated another call, and Oana Rain answered.
     “Yes?”
     “Oana, your stuff will be there in an hour. Would you join me and some of the people I trust in going against Hypnos.”
     “Raoul! I’m so glad you asked it, I don’t think anyone else would have accepted me. Of course I would.”
     “Cool, I’ll be there soon.”
     Rade looked at him, smiling, as he returned to the real world.
     “You ready for the great fight, then?”
     He nodded, and within an hour, the four of them faced nightmares within simulations. They fought for subjective days until they knew each other as fighters, and as human beings. They awoke later in that afternoon and the starship of Rade Nightwood arose with them, accelerating towards the nearest colony, the last prey of Hypnos.

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