a tale of the twilight continuum Θ
From the ansible memoirs of Exalted Scout, Glendale Mokoto, Hero of the Exodus Wars and the Fall of Earth. These are an amalgam of the earliest recordings before he was presumed lost.
Two hundred years ago, I was nothing special. I had no extraordinary abilities or talents. I was not blessed with superhuman strength like members of the New Order, genetically manipulated to be the perfect human specimens, trained and bred to be the ultimate warrior protectors of the human race.
I did not augment my mind with sentient mechanical intelligence like the Cognoseti, who became human predictors of the future of man. It was their wisdom that discovered the Earth’s greatest hidden secret; that we were not the first creatures on Earth to evolve into sentience. These human machine hybrids would later house the first true machine-descended intelligences in human history.
I did not mingle my DNA with those of animal species to garner advantages lost by the development of our bigger brains. The Transformed, whose malleable DNA allowed them to absorb genetic traits of other species would lead Humanity in the exploration of new worlds after we lost our home in the Sol System.
You see, I was just a baseline human, good genes, nice teeth, good skin, and until it fell out in my fiftieth year, a nice head of hair. Two hundred years ago, I was also the most celebrated hero; indeed, I was the last hero of the Exodus of Man. They named a starship after me, they named a continent after me, they named thousands of children after me. And to me that was a strange thing, seeing how I did not actually survive the experience.
To ponder this, and to explain why you are now able to know any of this, you have to know a bit more about Old Earth.
I remembered the stink of the war. It got up into your nose and never left. You could smell the burning flesh, the expended rounds, the fear, exhilaration, the blood-lust, the sheer terror of the Henrenki boiling up out of the ground in every major city on the planet.
I remembered the fighting, the endless fighting, the bravery of our young ones, their ceaseless dying, wheat before the scythe. When we retreated, the Henrenkai came, wave after wave, like the ocean filling in the beach of our dead.
I remembered them as they swarmed over our positions with machine guns blazing; our bullets tearing into their nacreous, resilient flesh but they kept coming.
Things looked hopeless until the New Men appeared, with their mysterious talk about the Art of War, talk of the brush strokes of their weapons, their mastery of their mysterious battle-trance. In those days, all we knew of war was the spastic struggling of the uninitiated to battle. We had been too long at peace.
Our struggles for survival, even before He came all but absorbed our attention. But even after generations of peace, we were still a warlike species and returned reluctantly to the field of battle. Every man woman and child was armed because this was a war without quarter and without mercy.
When the Cognoseti revealed His existence, He rose from the oceans, the Ancient Enemy of all who live in our galaxy. We did not know He was legendary. We did not know what scars He and His kind had swept across the face of that, as yet unknown to us, galactic empire. We did not know what He wanted, only that He destroyed all that we had, with malice and forethought. We did learn one thing: when He rose from the Pacific Ocean, we realized the nature of our enemy, He had the might of an entire world, buried within our own.
Mechanically-sentient, He created weapons like the Henrenkai from His very flesh, the organo-mechanical body in which He fell to Earth billions of years ago and hid in the iron core of our planet. He hid because He was pursued by the greatest species our galaxy had ever spawned. He hid and waited until they passed away or forgot; we are not sure which. When He arose again, He had been all but forgotten by everyone in the galaxy. How could they not; nearly three billion of our years had passed while he slumbered.
So we were forced to fight Him on our own, tiny simians against a god-like machine who had tried to enslave an entire galaxy. He fought us on land, sea, air, and even in space. What could we do against an enemy so incredibly powerful? He destroyed a third of the human race and had barely awakened. We lost all hope.
Then we received a signal from space. It appeared on every communication band, every wavelength, every technology, all at once. If you were watching anything, listening to anything, it appeared and told you to be ready.
A prophecy had sent them back to us. They told us it was time to leave our world. They told us to gather as much of our world as we could carry. We did not understand, but we gathered our resources, every animal, every plant, every insect we thought we could find and catalog. We even set aside entire islands, marked with force fields to make them stand out.
We had no idea of what the Sjurani were capable of back then. We did not know what to expect, but their message gave us hope, so we fought on.
I remember the first time I saw their ships. They blotted out the sun. We fought a retreating battle to their designated pick up points. They gathered us up with tractor beams, entire cities, whole islands. It was rumored they took the entire African continent. Something about it being a template for our entire world’s DNA.
They landed in their reptilian regalia and fought alongside us, as terrifying as the Henranki in their own way. Garishly colored in silks and metal, reptilian, festooned with gem-encrusted scales, loud, large, and boisterous; think of Old Earth fraternity boys armed with plasma cannons and rocket launchers and you will know something of the Rex, a warrior-breed of the Sjurani.
They helped us hold the line against the Ancient Enemy while we fled. They claimed they were the descendants of dinosaurs who had been born on Earth hundreds of millions of years in the past. We were too desperate to care. And too foolish to realize why that was more important than we knew at the time.
The evacuation took two weeks. My battle-brothers, old and new, human and Sjurani, fought until the very last ships were leaving the planet. Hundreds of millions were moved to ships every day, each scarred with the loss of someone or something precious.
The Sjurani told us He was soon to fully waken. Once that happened, we would stand no chance at all. The Ancient Enemy had only one agenda, and that was leaving the Earth. We could never allow that. Our planet’s gravity well was the only thing that prevented Him from opening a gateway to another universe – a universe full of creatures as powerful as he was.
But we could take the fight to Him: A suicide mission.
He had raised an island in the Pacific, a place from whence all of his forces rose to the surface. We would fight him there.
We infiltrated the Ancient Enemy with the help of Sjurani technology. We carried into Him an antimatter weapon, created by the Sjurani, with the force of a billion Hiroshima bombs. A weapon far more powerful than anything Humanity could ever create. His arrogance in being shielded from outside, made him believe he was invulnerable. Once inside His armored shell, we could use short range teleportation to penetrate deep into His neural network. Three groups entered the alien machine. Even if all three were successful, they told us our weapons would not kill Him. But we could wound Him, perhaps even lobotomize Him, for a time.
This would allow the two hundred million humans who agreed to stay behind to cover the final retreat. The West Coast of North America was destroyed in this final battle. The Rocky Mountains were all that remain of that coastline. One billion humans left the Earth in that two week period with some of the most terrifying fighting ever seen in any war, any conflict.
Once the antimatter was placed, I, the last survivor of three dozen of the finest warriors of two races, made my way to the surface killing everything in my path. I waited. The never-ending supply of Henrenkai continued to boil forth from the Ancient enemy. In that last moment before detonation, I lay down my exhausted weapon and the Henrenkai stopped, confused by the act.
With seconds remaining, I assumed the battle occurring in space had interrupted my teleport and I resolved myself to dying, free of anger and the corruption of war. I vowed never to wage war again. My death would keep my promise.
I opened my arms and the battle-enraged Henrenkai charged me, their razor sharp talons poised to shred flesh from bones. In those final seconds, time slowed as I watched them. Close to me, I studied them in a way I had never before. Their anatomy was a marvel: Bones of carbon fullerenes, talons sharper than the sharpest steel. Wide, predator-set eyes, excellent for determining the distance to me, their prey. I could smell their hot breath, a bitter almond overtone, and I closed my eyes, ready for death. No fighting, no resistance. I felt the antimatter as it detonated. A shockwave swept through me. I could feel it in my very atoms.
Suddenly, I could see the blast wave of energy and could feel my atoms snatched away protectively within the teleport sheath. I felt my body dying as the waves of antimatter, converted to gamma rays and cosmic radiation, were transformed into the most powerful kind of destruction in our universe, in the perfect release, the ultimate annihilation of matter. No man can ever say he sat in the heart of a star and lived to tell others of it. Neither could I. It would have been breathtaking if I had a breath to take.
In that eternal second, I violated causality and was in two places at one time. I was trapped in the containment field, experiencing a quantum reality, existing in two places and in neither. I was onboard the ship in a viewing chamber teleported, so they thought, to allow me, with the remnants of my species, to see the death of my world. Such a weapon would destroy the Earth as we knew it. I watched, both detached at a distance and intimately aware of the death throes of my home planet.
For a moment, I could be anywhere and any when; I moved through time and space. I saw the Ancient Enemy’s arrival on Earth three billion years ago, fleeing, from the Precursors. He crashed into a small planet in an unidentified star system with a small yellow star. I could feel His terror, I could feel His near dissolution, His flesh, burned with a fire like a solar flare, tearing His substance apart. He submerged Himself into our planet and the rocky surface extinguished those flames and His terror subsided. He sank into our world, and His screams grew quieter, until after an eon, He slept and forgot.
As I stood there in the middle of the greatest energy release since His arrival, I realized He would not die. He would survive just as He did before. Our work was almost in vain. His massive, nearly indestructible bulk would provide one benefit. Those who remained behind would not be wiped out from the weapon. They would be stranded on a world still trying to kill them. The thought was terrible and the last thing I remembered.
I was the last human to leave the Earth two hundred years ago, an unwitting and unwilling hero of a war we all but lost.
I woke several years later on our way to Toranor, a system of Gaian super-worlds created by a race of highly-advanced beings called The Precursors. No other race in the galaxy has ever come close to their level of technological capability. They were as far beyond even our Sjurani benefactors as we were beyond ants.
The Toranor star system had trillions of sentients living in harmony in what was called the jewel of the Corvan Empire. Now homeless, Humanity and the Sjurani were offered a place on one of their lesser worlds. I knew I would never call this place home. I had seen too much, done too much. There would be nothing for me here.
All that I valued died with Earth.
I asked what a single man could do in an Empire of sentients with magnificent technologies, making our human achievements, even in the year of our Lord 2475, seem like children’s toys? How could I distinguish myself?
By providing the one thing all Empires need: New boundaries. I became a Scout. I was told the role of a Scout was a solitary one. I would be provided a robot companion if I desired. My job would be to map stars toward the center of the galaxy for planets capable of being terraformed by the Mariovel at some point in the future. I was promised the knowledge of the Empire at my fingertips and all the time of my life to read and learn it.
It was then the Sjurani revealed to me that I had died during the teleportation. They had never tried to teleport during an antimatter explosion. No one ever had. My mind was able to be reconstructed, but my body had died. They took my mind and placed it within a robotic shell that mimicked my own form so well that I was never aware of the change at any time.
I was angered at first. I walked around for almost a year, on Galtan II, our new home, knowing something was different, but not knowing what. Galtan II was like all of the worlds of Toranor, beautiful, diverse, fantastic. The knowledge that all of these worlds were created by a sentient species that was not God, boggled the imagination. Imagine a star system with twenty habitable worlds. The knowledge would turn our ideas of science and religion on their ears.
Galtan II boasted a forest that spanned the entire equatorial band of the planet, one giant forest whose myriad trees were connected by their root system into one organic supercomputer, a single hive mind which could separate segments of itself to communicate with other forms of life. One of the most amazing world-minds in this part of the empire. Yes, there were others. Since the Botani did not choose to live in the colder parts of the planet, we were offered the other two thirds of the world to live responsibly on. With the technology of the Sjurani supporting our own, we could be good neighbors.
The Sjurani told me that what they did, they did for love of my heroic sacrifice. They created an entire technology around saving my life. I learned later they held my psychic resonance in an energy field that consumed the energy of a world for years. I felt guilty once I learned what was done on my behalf.
I learned that my condition, once successful, because of my heroic stature, spurred a whole division of baseline humans to make the transition to the robotic. We were called The Transcended. They gave up their flesh to become the first robotic-human hybrids. Were there consequences? Certainly, but none of them ever considered it an unfair trade, except perhaps for me. I would have liked to have had the choice.
When I was appointed a Scout, the Corvan empire made a starship for me; since I was no longer a living organic, they made something faster than had ever been created before. I named it Hayward’s Reach after a small seaside town where I lived the quiet life of a writer before the end of the world came for us all. Before activating the ship, the greatest generals, admirals and Sjurani Rex came to see me off. They said wonderful things, heroic things about me and my sacrifices. I didn’t listen.
All I could hear was the loneliness. No, the alone-ness that space offered me. I thanked them. I climbed aboard my ship and synchronized my ansible to an ansible station here on Galtan II which would relay my reports. Since an ansible could only be paired once, something about quantum entanglement, it was the most critical thing I could do unless I wanted to communicate relativistically.
My pilot was a Cogneseti, a sentient intelligence housed in the mechanical body of a woman. She was the first of her kind, a mechanical version of myself. I started life as a man and became a machine. She started her existence as a machine and became a woman.
Her name was Pele. She named herself after the mythical goddess of the legendary Hawaiian Islands that are no more. When I asked her about her name, she said once she had studied human history. The tale of the Hawaiians fascinated her and she had taken it upon herself to study all of the notes on Earth’s Polynesian cultures. Our ship was equipped with a distillation of all of the knowledge of the human race. We would also have an upstream of new ideas and achievements when time and bandwidth permitted. When I asked her why she was coming with me, she said since she would never get to see Hawaii, the next best thing was to discover a place like it somewhere else.
She arranged our path through the empire and indicated we would reach the edge of the Empire in as little as three jumps and three months using their Gate system. After that, we would be on our own, moving at approximately thirty-two times the speed of light. It would take us three thousand years to cross the galaxy. We would be taking the scenic route, flying through as many star-dense systems as possible. We were the fastest things in the Empire, streaking away from all that I knew, and I was glad to be doing it. It was unlikely we would survive the journey across the galaxy. The Sjurani estimated we might live for four hundred years with careful maintenance. We promised to change our oil regularly. Pele laughed. The Sjurani just looked quizzically at me.
Sitting down, I called up a data-screen. The words were queued up from earlier in the day, waiting for me. Pele was sitting at the nav station monitoring the ebb and flow of the aether. I read out loud as would become a tradition for the two of us in the decades to come: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
I had always wanted to read A Tale of Two Cities, and at that moment, it seemed appropriate. I never had the time before. Taking my companion’s hand, this new season of light illuminated our souls as we fled into the core of the galaxy, to see things no man had seen before. I, once being the most ordinary of men, had transcended the human experience for something never done before. It was, indeed, the best of times.
Hayward’s Reach © Thaddeus Howze, 2011, All Rights Reserved
Through the Gate is a concept project by Andrey Lifanov © 2006 . All Rights Reserved.