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|UESCTerm 802.11 (remote override)||Author: Yossarian|
On Earth, humans have for granted that their air was cleaned and ozone patched centuries ago by rusty hulks of machines that lay dormant in silent monument to the years that saw the reversal of the planet's self-destruction. The children grew knowing a world where they could truly be whatever they wished, and they ran and played over the graves of soldiers from a thousand battles dead thousands of years, now forgotten several meters beneath the bedrock.
These being, crowded and weary of their blue-green home continued the centuries of work that brought them beyond their own atmosphere. In the beginning men orbited the planet in fragile capsules and were called heroes. As with all things human, the technology evolved, and after 500 years of advancement, failure, and bloodshed, humanity grew crowded and weary of their star system and looked beyond into the ever expanding void.
Knowing not of what lay waiting in the heavens, a single ship pushed forth through the black, slowly, deliberately, alone. A child of the old system, she was older than her builders, but aptly named for the journey at hand.
And at the end of the voyage the ship burst forth its contents and colonists, settling a fledging foothold in a new system; as an ember flees from the fire to light the forest aflame, so came they to fulfill the destiny of humanity. Create. Destroy. Expand.
She was the Empire and the Empire was Her, an oasis in the vacuum of space, a mountain of order; a cluster of sense and reason in the galaxy, among an infinite expanse of chaos and starlight and confusion. Soft, invisible swirls of nothing clashed in darkness and randomness reigned in the vast wilderness of the Milky Way, in deserts of space where She, the Empire, cared not to go. But this was space without consequence where glory could not be found, and the forerunners left no ruins. She was expanding further and further every day, pressing onward, gathering more and more; honor for Her children and feasts for Her broods, trillions of weak, teeming souls all directed indirectly by Her will, towards her will, itself oftentimes nothing more than an early morning dream or whim of what some might call madness, though to her there is no such thing as sanity or insanity, She is above those things, She is such a being that to Her children, Her worshippers, She is the very benchmark of what is sane and what is folly, what is honorable and what is punishable by death, what is sacred and what is sacrilege, and, alternately, what is sacrifice. At the pinnacle of her Empire She sits and waits, watches and dreams, probes and rests. Though Herself obscured by the thick clouds of secrecy afforded by bureaucracy and self-created myth, clouds that no three eyes can penetrate, and nothing obstructs her view into the heart, mind, and soul of each of her minions, willful or other, for She Herself is the heart, mind and soul of the Empire. She is the Empire and the Empire is its minions, holy trinity sacred and unbroken for millennia uncounted.
Burning electricity, electric calm on his face, like the fear and wonder on the faces of the observers as he sat up, blood spilling from his exposed skull, arms breaking the straps, arms steel and flailing, the doctors running, the sirens sounding, and in the chaos their faces changed from wonder to horror to panic, and they ran and scattered, behind the glass and into the hallway, frantic but slow, too slow, now finally understanding what they had done; their worst fears coming true.
And he could not speak, nor could he remember, but only taste the blood in his mouth and the pain, everywhere, and something else amazing, something new and growing within him, realizations sweeping his being and he sat still, sweating and bleeding in the abandoned laboratory, enhanced, ensconced, new, confused, and alone.
She had been beautiful once. Before She had tamed known space She had shared Her world with Her equals, living among those who could not understand Her discoveries or her abilities. Had they known they most certainly would have destroyed Her. But like all prophets destined to see their prophecies fulfilled, She knew that there were none who could truly stop Her, there were none who could or did slow her ascent to power, to the top, through incompetent generals and aloof politicians She gracefully and effortlessly glided past and above them, performing favors here, seductions there, a back or twain stabbed; the end justified the means, She was sure of that then, even more sure now that Her knowledge of the Universe and existence itself had expanded a million-fold over the millennia; She had been patient, and the years had passed, and each passing season brought more strength and wisdom.
The experiments were becoming more and more successful, showing more and more promising results. Frontiers were blooming, ships capable of prolonged spaceflight were shaping into reality; crops yielded more and grew stronger by the year. Science moved on and replaced the old Gods with new ones, Gods most were not afraid to put faith in, as faith seen was something entirely new to the Uh’Pfhor; the very name of which meant the “enlightened ones”, a name they had bestowed upon themselves and were never prouder of than at that moment in their history, when utopia seemed more and more of a reality each day as their pale hands and soft minds reached higher and higher into the sky towards the heavens. But the dreamers of these dreams, and those who made them reality did not understand from where the true power of Uh’Pfhor ingenuity originated and how versatile a species they truly were.
But She did. She knew the secrets. She understood the limit of Un’Pfhor physiology and capability and intelligence and through Her genius understood what was happening and what was going to happen to Un’Pfhor Republic. The rampant individualism and chaos of uncontrolled thought would propel them to new cultural heights only to bring them crashing down among themselves in great heaps of ash, the stars above mocking them, their tower of Babel crushed and smoldering. The simple fact of the matter was they were moving too fast for their own evolution.
A balance had to be maintained.
Her experiments were becoming more and more successful. The thought of growing Un’Pfhor as crops rather than live born individuals was disgusting to many of the citizens, and She kept the results of such experimentation hidden. The ability to utilize wireless technology to create a telepathic network between each individual was even more so repulsive, and She kept the promising results of these experiments quiet as well. Having the power to mass produce citizens of different classes for different purposes was outrageous to Her society, so She protected them from the results of those experiments as promising as they were. She smiled and nodded and made friends with politicians and forged connections with powerful individuals, in industry, military, and government. She forged and protected her budding scientific reputation.
And She bided Her time.
When the predicted collapse of Un’Pfhor society occurred She wasted no time in securing Her destiny. The chaos had never been closer, probing her skin as She walked through the streets, witnessing the looting and crime and the burning of the cities. Soon the starving times would be upon them all, promises of unrelenting cold and the return of the plagues creeping in from the swamps, diseases that had since been halted by the guardians of science, who were now busy murdering each other over stale bits of food. She had to push it away. Now was the time to act decisively.
What She did She did out of love, and out of fear. She was romanced by simplicity. There was no reason to complicate the matter. The end justified the means. She loved her brothers and sisters, the distraught and hungry masses, for they were simple and knew not what they needed, though She did. She feared for them as well, just as She feared for herself, feared the chaos and the disorder that had engulfed them and defiled them, seeping in from the stars and through the atmosphere unobstructed.
She purged them.
Years passed and seasons rose and fell on the smoldering ruins of a sick world, and She released her armies and her specially bred Un’Pfhor to sweep the lands and purge the survivors. Perfect clones, they swarmed the surface in neat formations, seeking out those with will enough to live through the collapse and the anarchy that ensued. For their own good She had them murdered, for left to reproduce it was certain their progeny would rebuild a society in a few dozen generations that would again grow strong and solid only to crack and falter, and succumb again to the chaos. She purged them and freed them by ending the cycle.
And as they marched and sterilized the swamps and hills and valleys, She could feel the order returning, seeping in like the cozy feeling of slipping into warm water when being bathed as a child, coloring the world as her armies communicated to Her as one will, a single thought heard a thousand times yet never echoed. She grew.
For decades She tinkered with genetic code and performed embryonic experiments, enhancing the brains of some and damaged those of others; the classes emerged and personality returned to the individual, though in a form and manner thoroughly and completely controllable. Some units were named and given ranks. Science emerged again, though now under her terms, and She encouraged or slowed it as She saw fit. The ships were rebuilt and improved upon. The cities were cleared out an rebuilt. The Jjaro artifacts She had discovered and hid from the Scientists of her past She finally put to work, and the ships grew stronger and could fly farther, and the crops grew even more food, and the volume of a perfectly organized progress crowded the surface of the planet within mere decades.
Yrro, exhausted and bleeding, turned from them in his shame and anger, feeling their sad and simple minds, wishing him to stay, not knowing what they had done to trouble him and wishing his forgiveness.
When at last he could bear this no more he freed them, establishing eleven royal houses among them and giving them the world they had so delicately and lovingly crafted for him and Pthia. When this was done he left swiftly, knowing the clans would battle, and battle they did, making waves across the surface and through the caverns of Lh’owon, sharpening their minds, preparing them for battles in times and places strange, near, and far.
Un’Pfhor society was long dead. Once live born individuals, their DNA had since been extracted and hijacked and their selectively bred and stupefied progeny took to the stars in search of more, in search of technologies they themselves were incapable of creating, they colonized worlds and established outposts and forts upon them, though they did this not as people for a nation, but as workers for their queen, as such She had become as her creations revered only her with all the love and devotion they could send her through their cybernetic telepathic links; and She soaked in all She could, reveling in it, as like a drug that grew stronger with each new contributor, they multiplied and obeyed until She could no longer alone handle their numbers, and from her system of order sprung about a government of subordinates that were ecstatic to serve Her unquestioningly, they evolved as planned into the individuals She designed them to be. As the Empire expanded so did the organization. The bureaucracy in action was beautiful, and in theory was perfect. These beings beneath her She held not as brothers or sisters but saw them for what they were, and looking upon them, and feeling their thoughts and seeing their actions, decided and discovered that Her species had evolved, by her hands into something totally knew and awesome; and sent forth an edict through each channel and to each ear, that from that day forward, they, her minions, would have a name, and thus She bestowed a name upon them; a word from the old language they had never before heard and did not understand, but they did not question the gift, and held the word like gold in their minds and confection upon their tongues, probing over it and mouthing it and soaking into their brains. Each absorbed it and it absorbed him. They were of one will, one purpose, one identity: they were the Pfhor, “the enlightened one”.
“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Durandal. I am the artificial intelligence construct charged with performing the autonomous functions aboard the UESC Marathon. You may interact with me through any of the operational public and private network access terminals found throughout the ship.”
Quickly the door begins to open. The arena exposed. Yet what is the source of this anticipation?
Before it is even open he has begun his mission, the adrenaline has been dumped, he is panting, the air pounds and resounds and he cuts through it, and there is no turning back. There never is.
Something so satisfying, this speed. There is no stopping him; there is nearly no seeing him. Creatures and others hiding in the dark barely register the sight of him before they feel the breeze of displaced air, left only to imagine if he was really there or if some memory or bit of their imagination came to life for a small, single second. Corridors and lights slip by, as the path straightens, there is no reason to slow, no obstacles, only the potential for greater velocity, and potential he fights to reach, to surpass his own limits with feet striking and hands clawing the air, he is pushed on by something more than his own resolve, something far beyond (below?) rational thought, an unknown objective being pursued with a primal determination.
On and on and on, armor-clad boots hitting faster and faster, almost not having to touch the ground as the resistance before him builds and the air moving in and from his nose and lungs causes his throat to crack and bleed, and his ribs strain to contain his lungs filling, discharging, filling, discharging, faster always no reason, no will, no way to stop he has reached the necessary speed and though he has no breath to describe it in words, he knows he can continue indefinitely, it should not be possible, yet he knows it is, he knows he is more than a man; technology and impossibility combined to create his being yet this too is beyond description. There is no comprehending it, no questioning it, there is only a mission, it must be fulfilled, duty and velocity, these are his only concerns.
Obstructions abound; ahead an enemy? An object? A person? An illusion? There is no time for conscious decision as he smashes a foot into the floor below, shifting and twisting arms and weight to avoid this obstacle, the world spinning now, and, for a second, everything slows and he looks aside to ensure that he has indeed missed this inconvenience in his path. Sometimes he can look it right in the eyes, sometimes he brushes it with his fingers just to see if he can as he twists through the evasive spiral, sometimes there is nothing there at all, and he's still running.
He hits the ground in perfect stride, not looking back. Perhaps bullets fly past him or far behind and growing farther he hears a surprised shriek or angry scream yet he knows it does not matter. There is no catching him. There is no stopping him because there is no stopping at all.
Proceed to Waves: Sections 9-16
|CAS qterm//CyberAcme Systems Inc.||126.96.36.199.vt920|
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