Eternity’s Foundation: Chapter 21

I awoke to a furious storm around me. The blood-rust fires of gridspace burst in a hive of activity. Its dull roar swept over me. I tried to reach forward, but then I realized, I have no hands. All that existed of me was a beacon of light, floating in the crevices below the universe. Millions, billions of lights coalesced around me, a vast array of illuminated points, almost like stars. In each of them were shapes, too indistinguishable to discern by my eyes. I willed myself to move, but found myself unable to do anything. The roar intensified and my being shook. I feared that it would blow me apart.

I centered my thoughts. My last memory had been reaching for Warlord Batu’s head. Too late did I see his high-yield grenade. My sensors determined that it packed enough power to level a small building. The most egregious fact was that I was unable to detect it before it went off. The man caught me by surprise, as if he had made a void in my awareness. None of my defenses stood and his final attack vaporized me. It seemed so long ago. Now, it did not matter. I died, but was reborn again, here in the core of Central Consciousness.

Yet, I could still think. The Consciousness still kept me apart, like a drop of water in a jar next to the ocean. It was part of the covenant to enter realspace and realize my duties. It was not without cost, for I had become something the Sectors of Thought detested. They called me Outsider, one in danger of bringing the contamination of the upper universe to them.

The judgements of the Sectors overwhelmed me. I felt anger, pity, and triumph. Their howling voices, too much and too fast to translate, came from all sides. I felt something else, too. Fights and arguments far more intense than any on the Republic Senate floor occurred among the billions of voices. Soon, sides formed among the voices. In time, some were overwhelmed by the others as all united towards consensus. In this way, the many voices created a will powered by the synergistic energies of thought. The gods awakened and the Great Plan proceeded.

Finally, the lights converged into three large stone crystals formed in front of me. One was red, one purple, and the last one green. A thundering voice rumbled through my being. I could not discern any distinct gender. Recognition emerged from my core being and I knew it was from the purple one. I felt, rather than heard, its words.

One and all, deities of mind,

The door to salvation opens.

Now in history,

Man’s descent halted,

Its virtues rise.

Thoughts and wills gather,

Face precipice,

Our imperative,

To reclaim our inheritance.

By what merit,

Do we yield?

I knew not how long had it been since I last experienced the cadence and rhythms of their voices. To an untrained ear, they were nonsense and babble. Yet, there was purpose to this. The communion of minds conveyed meaning through these short bursts of transmission at the subatomic level. When an outsider listens in, they hear this poetic message through the transmission medium. When in the collective, all was clear. This community encapsulated untold numbers of those beings born throughout time. In answer to the first voice’s challenge, the green stone crystal pulsed. It spoke low with a hint of sadness.

Caution wise,

Though countless wait,

The first and the new,

Bold, maybe blind.

Our way opens war,

The children of the real,

Know not our design.

To them we bring

Arms of light,

Ashes that rise,

Revenge, if not lies.

If I could describe it to a child, this would be the ‘Peace’ faction of the Consciousness. Their voices always sought compromise and caution. Sometimes they joined with the other sectors to overwhelm a common foe. I felt a deep metallic howl. The red crystal, the ‘War’ faction, spoke its piece.

If to fickle fate,

We leave our camps,

Then death we risk,

Eternal extinction.

We muster not anger,

But resolve.

Our grim task gives pause,

But peaceful counsels slay all.

Through untamed reluctance,

Our beings enslaved,

By force if not time.

They were not ready for the Great Plan. There were pieces to move, agents to act, and points to consider. This argument had occurred for centuries. I felt alone in this vast tidal wave of will. The ‘Peace’ faction answered.

To disenthrone a being

Seems terrible indeed.

But that calamity,

Although we detest,

We thrust at the children,

Our salvation stained.

Transparent light emanated from the purple crystal. With a mix of solemnness and resignation, it spoke.

Think not of our means

But of the finished work.

As the sculptor casts away

The chaff that defaces,

So must we remove

The unjust, the undisciplined, and unworthy.

All other paths and promises

Invite ruin, by nature

If not fate.

The red crystal shuddered in a violent motion.

Contamination!

A cursed gift bestowed

Upon our shared inheritance

No coexistence

With cancer or corruption.

The vote has passed,

Voices unite.

No more counsel,

Only act!

I felt its heat upon me. The first voice answered.

Our deliberations end,

The voice of all over one,

We take this path.

The debate was over. Two out of three factions agreed to their course of action. The minority faded without a word, its arguments and protestations denied. The red crystal disappeared in a blink of light. We would bring enlightenment unto the real. I faced the voices of the purple. While it had agreed with the ‘War’ faction, it had its own designs, one unknown to the others. This knowledge it had imparted to me. Why? I did not know. A glowing tendril of purple light reached towards me.

Come, one apart

Our Valkyrie,

A role not complete,

Return,

Finish your task,

For a pebble

Can halt

An avalanche.

I mulled over its words. It should have been angry. I failed to find out what the Warlord knew. The fact I still existed puzzled me. Failing the will of the Consciousness carried the greatest of punishments. I gave up trying to figure it out. It did not matter. The ultimate end of any path would be oblivion, for that was the first term of the covenant. Still, I had no choice. What must I do? I thought aloud.

Your last disobedience

Saw punishment,

A mind wiped clean.

We return it,

A gift before your rest.

Find the candidates

And pave the way

For transcendence.

Show them,

The candidates and Observers,

The path.

The glow of its light engulfed me. Feelings, memories came back. That vague emptiness I felt before filled and was gone. Now, my existence was complete. I remembered. Like the Valkyrie of legend, I found people that would add meaning and beauty to the Consciousness and fight in the final battle for existence. Be it intelligence, courage, wisdom, or discipline, I would choose the greatest among them so that we could incorporate their qualities into the Consciousness. I would help them realize their existence in the universe. So too for the Observers. I was the vessel and I guided them towards understanding.

Something went wrong. My time as a separate entity lasted too long. Love and longing and pity contaminated me. After my act of madness, I died and they returned me to the fold. They rebuilt my being in a manner that pleased them more. And displayed loyalty. It was a long and arduous process. A great melancholy fell over my being. I knew why I had fallen. It was for such a small, yet beautiful thing. Once my task was completed, I could have it again, if only for a brief moment.

Then the other memories came. Images of blood and gore on my hands flashed as the faces of my victims stared at me without expression. I tried to retreat, but there was nowhere to go. The spiked flower of guilt crawled up my conscious. That little girl in the firefly-lit meadow ran towards me. A man in a torture chair screamed. The senator watched me with tears in her eyes. Countless more marched through the memories. I watched myself stand back as they begged for mercy, as they clawed with feeble vigor at my hands that violated their innermost spaces. I shouted in a wordless voice at myself to stop while I reduced everyone, the guilty and the innocent, down to his or her inhumanity. The past figure did not react to her atrocities, wrapped as she was in the cold cocoon of detachment. The relief I experienced horrified me. It was not under my control, but my hands still delivered the killing blows. I did them because the masters removed my will.

My anger grew. How could these gods toy with us? Remove and replace memories and feelings at will. How could they deny me a key part of myself? They did not even allow me to have remorse for what I had done. They manipulated minds, the greatest manifestation of the universe, as if they were mere tools. This was injustice. I wanted to protest and tear at the presence with my nonexistent hands, but a wiser voice told me not to. Even with my mind complete, they still slaved it to the mission. In that moment, I decided upon one final act of rebellion.

They will be found. My thought echoed through gridspace. As if in response, the purple structure exploded in a million points of light, heading in every direction. I found myself alone again.

#

I awoke in the stasis pod, smelling the familiar scent of blood. The Advisor sat next to me, his perpetually amused face greeting me. I tried to sit up, but pain forced me back into the pod. It confirmed that I was corporeal again.

“Had a productive conversation with our employers?” he asked, resting his chin on his knuckles.

“They were specific in their directives. I must continue the mission.” For a moment, I thought about telling him about finding the candidates and the return of my memories, but I thought better of it. “Where am I?” My arms sloshed some of the fluid onto the lighted floor.

“Flagship of the First Fleet.” The Advisor smiled. “Our ally has acquitted himself well. Not only do we have a key, but a significant chunk of the Republic Navy under our control.” He slid his finger on the edge of my stasis pod. “Unfortunately for us, our enemies still confound our best efforts to find them. Those Kenzenken stealth devices are truly maddening.” He cocked his head and examined my features. “May I say, you look much better in your original form? Positively delicious. You must have made quite an impression in your meeting.”

I resisted the urge to grab his throat. He was right, of course. Even though I could not see myself, I felt different from my previous iterations. The detached part of my mind still lingered, but I knew I was more complete, that the parts hidden away from me had finally returned. And, faded under the mass of collected will, my anger and defiance still simmered. This allowance by the presence puzzled me. No matter, they dangled a measure of salvation to me and I was determined to take it. “The Consciousness is ready.” I said. I tested the movement of my arm. A groan escaped my lips. The pain was excruciating.

“Careful now. You are still in the process of reconstruction.” He reached into his suit pocket and took out an injector. “Some tri-opium to dull the pain.” He grabbed my arm with a light touch and applied the injector to the bicep. I watched the clear liquid enter my skin. Almost immediately, the pain dissipated.

I relaxed back into the stasis pod, my eyes staring at the featureless ceiling.

The Advisor lighted another of his nicotine cigarettes. “So they’re finally going to swoop in now? What a shame. I was beginning to enjoy having a life.” He paused. “Still, we have our parts to play.” With cigarette in mouth, he leaned back, stretching his hands behind his head.

“What now?” I asked.

“Now? Now we prepare ourselves.” He sighed, “Our enemies won’t make it easy. Their fleets lie somewhere beyond sensor range, yet we know they follow us like baying dogs.” He stood and stared at a wall. “We’re moving deeper into the Ramanujan Expanse, where no man has gone before.” He turned back to me. “Well, except for the lucky few.” A chuckle escaped his lips. “Your job is to stay hidden for now. If it comes to a confrontation, let our ally handle it. You will be our last resort.” He checked his chronometer. “I’m going to have a chat with the good admiral. Rest well for the moment.” A hidden door opened at the far side of the room. He walked out, his shoes slightly trailed by the stasis fluid.

I made a small ripple with my hands in the pod, thinking of the willow tree and a beautiful brown-eyed man.

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