"While we live, the world goes out around us. Contrary to what our subconscious leads us to believe, the universe does not center around us. The universe is apathetic to us, and constantly changes. However, we must change to survive."
-Jassul, Live Interview
Chapter VI: Cosmic Gears Grinding
Thomas' custom virtual mission had an interesting, if unrealistic, setup. Ahead of him was a rack of the notable weapons used by each of the factions in the known universe. He would have some time to look at each weapon, and then could test his skills against a simulated opponent or squad using it. Likewise, he could randomize the variety of weapons in an enemy squad. It would be an interesting exercise.
Beppo Zyklon got ready for the ceremony. Abendroth had just left for the Merkava. It was time to present the Fuhrerhedrin to the public in New Jericho. He and a local officer would walk on either side of the Fuhrerhedrin through a decorated warehouse. They'd walk in front of a group of White Legionnaires holding their automatic Gauss rifles and fully clad in armor. Off to the side, a band would play a religious hymn called, "Triumph of the Chosen Race." The whole scene would be recorded on holographic recorders, and be broadcast to the whole Divine Empire. It would be wonderful for propaganda.
Likewise, Abendroth would not be seen in the scene. Only him, the Fuhrerhedrin, and a minor officer who was attempting to impress Beppo. With any luck, Abendroth would not return from his mission. He was too much of a loose cannon. Even if he was loyal, he was not ethnically Yisraeli. Imagine the propaganda disaster of showing a non-pure Yisraeli with the Fuhrerhedrin! Hence, he had to be removed, and a puppet officer put in his place.
A while into the simulation, GOTWON and Thomas were discussing a new subject.
He wouldn't be a dissident if he conformed to the system.
True. However, Jackknife's probably going to be using Joachim's social status for his mad plan. Thinking I'm helping him makes me ill.
How? There is no sickness in the TUL.
I meant figuratively.
Forgive me. Many Stray-Is have difficultly with figurative language.
Oh, look that weapon.
Well, well. An antimatter scattergun. Just like the one the PYR guards in my first simulation attacked me with.
You mean antimatter rifle.
This stupid word game again?
It's a short-range weapon that lacks rifling of any sort in the barrel. It scatters magnetically sealed packets of negatively-charged particles around. It's technically a scattergun.
I didn't decide to call it a rifle. The people in the PYR did.
By why do they call it something it's not?
That's something all humans do, it seems.
I remember one of us once said it 'sounded better' or some such nonsense.
It's not just humans that call people things that they aren't.
Several Stray-Is and TUL citizens also fall into this "incorrect labeling" trap.
Yes, but sometimes, it's deliberate. After all, demagogues of all sorts label anyone that disagrees with them as "evil" or "inferior" to them.
This has been repeated several times in history. You'd expect at least some of the human factions to wise up by now.
But they haven't. Let's just get back to the subject on hand.
The weapon is called a rifle. Just suck it up.
I still don't like it.
That's what almost everyone in the PYR calls it. Just stop whining.
Fine. Let's continue the simulation.
Thomas went back to simulated combat.
Bressian felt dirty. He had just been defeated by a man with strange powers and odd equipment. He never left anyone alive who had posed a threat to him. It was strange to suddenly exert so much energy and have no fresh kill. It was times Bressian felt low that he went on longer killing sprees. However, now he was content to simply try something new with an infant he had found in outside dumpster. He dangled his tongue and started to drool at the whining thing.
Up came Bressian's meat hook. There was a sick sound as it ripped through skin and tissue. He had just tore the baby's stomach open. He stuck his hand in, and started pulling out different internal organs. Then, Bressian masturbated into the newly created orifice. He then repeated it twelve more times. Each of the thirteen orifices was soon filled.
However, Bressian noted it did not excite him as it normally did. That fellow who had rescued his prey still was haunting his mind. It was burning up inside Bressian. He was the one he wanted to gut and skin alive. Bressian would not be at peace until he bathed in his bodily fluids and masturbated into his skull. Only then would the taint be gone. However, who was he? Where was he? And how could Bressian hope to beat him? It would take a miracle, for sure.
It had been a rousing simulation, but Thomas was almost done.
I've been thinking a bit. What's common about Jackknife's selected dissidents?
Most of them are male. The only exception is Ayala, but she's dead.
There was something other than gender. Think of rank.
Each one is in a successfully higher social status than the last one. The Merry Men were outcasts. Iwan was somewhat akin to a policeman. Joachim was a military officer. Each one also seems to have a different fighting style or specialty.
The Merry Men seem skilled at guerrilla tactics. Iwan is skilled in debating and anti-Crusader tactics. Joachim is skilled in playing the system to get what he wants.
You are aware of Jackknife's plans, right? I believe he has some more motives than what Jassul and I originally anticipated.
What? Does he want to use each dissident's special skills to further advance his plans?
Yes. Just think of it. Imagine using Cov-Techs to train insurgents against each faction. Like using the Merry Men as a basis for industrial sabotage or guerrilla tactics. Or using Iwan as a basis for anti-NeoKrys tactics.
That does seem devious. Jackknife, if he's watching, probably knows it's beyond the TUL's capabilities to dominate the known universe using conventional might. Training armed resistance groups to dominate enemy factions saves the TUL the costs of maintaining a large occupation force.
However, there is a bit of a dilemma here. If we train armed groups, there's no guarantee they won't turn on us.
Yup. History has shown that large groups, especially nations, dislike rivals. In order to eliminate their rivals, they might fund a smaller group that opposes the said rival. Then, the "lapdog" group wears down the rival over time. Eventually, the rival collapses. Depending on the culture or ideology of the "lapdog group," they either step aside or turn on the faction that originally funded them. Most of the time, though, they don't just step aside.
Indeed. Many claim the original group wronged them in some way, when they were really just biting the hand that feeds them.
That's why the TUL does not take sides in this factional war. Whoever's left over will probably turn once the other factions are done in. Other than NeoKrys Guardians, there's not many factions that would have a stable alliance with us, even in peacetime.
Yeah. I also realize something else. Joachim has an army unit. Perhaps Jackknife wants to use this army to serve as our "pet force" while taking over rival factions.
Yeah. But knowing Jackknife, he'll give them all our best conventional weapons and training. He likely won't give them medical tech, like nano-healing, though.
Shit. I just realized something. If Joachim's unit is used like that, think of what could happen without advanced medical tech.
Right. If there's casualties, there's a good chance TUL technology could get into the hands of enemies. If enemies capture or reverse-engineer our devices, which they will eventually, there's a very good chance the weapons of the TUL could be used against it. Even the Sol System could be attacked by outsiders, something that hasn't happened for centuries!
Then the Director is playing with fire.
And we're all going to be kindling if we're not careful.
Thomas turned his attention back to finishing the simulation.
Letap Kitian grinned. He was in his massive tower, the Letap Center. In the history of humanity, many groups had elaborate palaces for their leaders. DSHI was no exception. All the affairs of the corporation were dictated from within a massive structure, the Letap Center. The Letap Center was named for Kitian's first name , and totaled over a kilometer tall. The structure was a giant metal mushroom looming above the cityscape. From here, Kitian watched all over Newurth's planet-wide cityscape. All of the planet was either polluted seas, barren wastelands, or decaying urban sprawl. And he was the one responsible for keeping it that way. Never were funds spent on clean up or urban renewal, unless it was for his personal resorts or the Board of Directors' estates.
Funds went back into the company. They were then directed to weapons research, luxuries for the CEO and the Board of Directors, and salaries, of course. The lowest scum would get the smallest amount, and the further one went up the ladder, the higher the salaries got, and the less actual work they did. Even military officers didn't care much for tactics or logistics, instead avoiding any chance of seeing combat. If they'd have a problem, they'd just send more cheaply-equipped troops in.
The lowest scum also had generations long debt, so they would partially be wage-slaves. Kitian also had a mechanism for ensuring his Corporate Security Forces were loyal. Microchips were implanted into each soldier's head. They would then basically be biological remote control drones. Their minds were put into a state of dormancy while the chips were in their heads. They would do anything without feeling. It was fun to have soldiers do things that boot camp couldn't even make them do. Like raping their children and shooting their families. Sometimes it was fun to deactivate the chip and let them see what they had done.
Kitian heard a knocking on his door. He knew who this was. "Enter," he said. A slender, redheaded courtesan entered. She was barely a teenager, but the CEO didn't care. "You want me, CEO?" she asked in a seductive voice.
"Yes. I have evidence you've been skimming profits and looking around my room when I'm asleep. You are aware that consists of a breech of contract, correct?" Kitian asked in an angry tone.
The young woman's look suddenly turned to fear. She got on her knees and folded her hands. "Please, sir! You have to understand! My mother's dying! I need to pay for her-"
"Oh, please! Spare me the tears! You've breeched the contract, and you will suffer the consequences!" Kitian yelled.
With that, Kitian opened a small door leading outside. There was no ledge or balcony beneath it. "I call this my suicide door. I give people who've breeched my contracts the opportunity for a quick death. Either you use it, or I'll make sure your death is as painful as possible as I rape you with this," Kitian smirked as he pulled out an FPDW.
The redhead started sobbing as she stepped up to the door. "You seem indecisive," Kitian said with a smirk. "Perhaps I can give you a bit of a push?" Kitian gave the teenager with a gingerly shove.
For the following few seconds, Kitian heard the young woman scream. He almost felt sorry for her. If she had only known how to read, she would have saw the contract had the clause "Employer may change terms without warning, and I hereby submit my life, rights, and body to the employer." Of course, he didn't feel sorry. Almost. Desperate, starving teenagers were a dime a dozen, anyway.
Life was cheap. But custom golden bullets for his FDPW were expensive. That suicide door was one of the things he was glad he installed in his room. He was grateful he didn't have to waste a round on an under-aged girl. She was just a tool. When a tool wore out, you got a new one. Come to think of it, he needed an excuse for the latest military spending spree. The PYR was getting overused. However, the new rebel group, the Merry Men, would likely soon be committing more acts. Perhaps he should scale back defenses on various apartments and automated fuel carrying aircraft.
Meanwhile, far below, the remains of Kitian's latest villain hit the pavement. A little boy was playing near the street when another corpse landed not too far away. Inside his house, his father was looking up after a drug injection while looking outside. It was raining hookers. Too bad the boy wasn't hit this time. He'd have to order the boy to play closer to the tower next time, so a falling body would crush the little twerp. Then he'd have more money for drugs. His neighbors couldn't be the only ones on the block to have the new drugs.
Thomas was relaxing a bit after the simulation.
Alright, that was fun. Weapons and military units are always interesting to see.
Well, you love your military science and being a Cov-Tech.
That's one thing I dislike about being a Cov-Tech. I have to do the leader's will, though I may not agree with it.
That has been the curse of soldiers all throughout history. They must do the will of the leaders, whether they agree with them or not.
It is my job, though.
You just do what you have to.
Can't Jackknife find some other Cov-Tech to watch his dissidents?
Well, the Director says he wants to see emotional reactions of someone who's been through Jassul's improved training methods.
He probably just wants to keep me busy so Jassul and I can't uncover his motives.
That's one thought.
Though my job as Cov-Tech has been demanding, I have had time to notice something on Jackknife's latest speeches.
He talks about how bad the conditions are in the other factions. He suggests that the TUL can do a lot more. I'm thinking this is how he's going to present his plan to the public.
Right. He wants to win over sympathy for the victims of the other factions in order to justify his plans.
Of course, he will not play upon the fact his plans are doomed to failure.
Politicians rarely are frank about the negative parts of their own plan.
There is one good thing about the TUL, I noticed. Viewers are commonplace. They can be used to your advantage next election.
What are you getting at?
Remember that conversation you had with Jassul? You should somehow use that as a counterargument to Jackknife's plans.
Great idea! I'll be sure to relay it to Jassul.
Also, don't be afraid to mention that Jackknife is hiding information from the Viewers, somehow. Things concealed from the Viewers are sure to get a public outcry.
Since the public is dependant on Viewers, I anticipate that Jassul will have quite a bit going for him.
That reminds me. Remember the NeoKrys Crusader threat Jackknife's so worried about?
The NeoKrys evolving a way to nullify our Viewers?
Yeah. Use that to justify making a new type of Viewer, hopefully one that can counter anything the NeoKrys can come up with. Also, claim that a new Viewer can nullify Jackknife's concealed memories.
That would be good. Jackknife has been hinting at using conventional might against the Crusaders. The new Viewer platform would be a good way to turn the NeoKrys issue back at him.
That's good, since Jassul can advocate better training of Cov-Techs against the NeoKrys. Jackknife, who bases much of platform against conventional forces, would be at a loss.
A cunning plan.
In addition to that talk between you and Jassul, you might also want to use some of our discussions.
Excellent. Let's not focus on the "rifle versus scattergun" discussions, though.
I do find it ironic, though.
I am nearly emotionless and distrustful of sensationalism, and here I am helping a politician appeal to the public's emotions.
But you don't want Jackknife to win the elections!
Well, the reason I'm doing it is because I have befriended Jassul, and I dislike having the TUL going down the crapper while I stand by and let it happen.
Even though I disagree with Jackknife now, he's still my brother.
Well, your brother is probably going to trash the only society I truly feel like truly belong in. However, you can have your differences. In my time, humans in the same family had many differences of opinion.
I don't recall you saying you felt you truly belonged here.
Well, I have grown to like the TUL.
What do you like about it?
Negative parts of human nature are a thing of the past, for the most part. There is free, and uncontested, access to information. Technology is embraced, rather than shunned. Politicians, for the most part, try to use facts closer to reality than what some special interest group told them. To top it all off, I like my job.
But you still complain about being kept busy by Jackknife!
You know our theories about Jackknife's plan. I hate to be a pawn for him, especially when I disagree with him. Perhaps he wants me to further his plans as a nice, ironic twist, since I'm a friend of his chief political rival.
Wait… I just thought of something. Perhaps Jackknife wants you to gain empathy for the victims of other factions by watching them.
That could very well be it. However, I have little, if any empathy. If I did develop any, I would remove it. It would only interfere with my job.
Yes, but think of it in another way. If you have empathy for the victims of other factions, you might be more sympathetic to Jackknife's plans.
Gaining public sympathy for non-TUL citizens is a probably major part of Jackknife's plans. However, the path to oblivion often seems as the "right idea" at the time. Look at socialism. It seemed like a good idea on paper, but it was too easily twisted into a vile justification for dictatorship.
Well, we don't want to repeat history here, and have the TUL fall into history's dustbin.
Well, I'll think about it later. Does Director Jackknife want me to watch any more dissidents?
Thankfully. Anyway, I've just run through the simulation on the other faction's militaries. It seems that DSHI uses cheaply produced, but reliable stuff, and the PYR likes over-priced, extravagant weapons to lower tech items. However, I've heard about the Brood earlier. What exactly are they?
They are little more than a feral race of space bugs.
That sounds like a cheesy movie from my time.
Indeed it does. They're a product of NeoKrys genetic engineering gone bad. They were dumped on a backwater planet. However, since the Brood can reproduce so fast, they rely on swarm tactics to overwhelm nearly anything.
How are they such a threat, then? All you have to do is avoid landing on any planet they're on.
Easier said than done. They were originally confined to one planet, but some offworlders brought eggs back home. That is why the Brood is found on many planets, but mainly as pests. It was mainly PYR scout ships that inadvertently helped them spread.
Do they have any coordination abilities?
They're about as smart as an ant colony would be. Most only have "swarm logic." Some, however, have Teilhard Apparatuses in their cells and communicate with those. Their sole battle plan is swarm the enemy until they retreat. However, they evolve rapidly. They often use biological organs and material to fulfill what other factions use technology for.
To counter conventional artillery, a recent evolution gave the ability to launch explosive mucus sacs by muscle contractions and gas pressure.
Is there a "central" mind controlling the Brood's hives on all the planets?
No. Each Brood hive works independent of each other. They prefer to communicate only with each members of their own hives. In fact, different hives often fight against each other for control of territories.
Interesting. But might it be possible for the Brood to unify, though?
Yes. If a powerful being like a stronger Stray-I helped them. However, that Stray-I would also need a physical "leader" or "central hive" with abilities to bend time and space. Otherwise, there would not be anyway to handle that much bandwidth.
I'm just glad that isn't the case.
Such an organism would indeed be like a god.
Don't you mean "God?"
No, a god. God is a singular entity. Nothing can surpass it. However, a god is simply an entity with a lot of power. A got can be killed. God cannot.
What do you think of religion, Thomas? I know you're an atheist, but you had that strange happening a while ago.
I think religion's an artificial construct. Sure, it can have a good effect on a lot of people, but it can inspire a lot of nutcases. Like all artificial things, it is not necessarily evil. I think, though, if there is a God, he, she, or it would likely want people to just get along instead of relying on it for everything.
The majority of the TUL agrees with that. The largest religion in the TUL is deism. Philosophies like atheism and agnosticism are also common.
Even if there's a God, I think it must be an interesting entity.
It doesn't intervene in our universe. Either it's not interested in us, outside our comprehension, has a warped sense of humor, or doesn't intervene because it cares for people to find their own way. God's far beyond our senses. It's stupid, senseless, and arrogant, for some people claim they know its will and they're the only way to salvation or truth. I doubt it set in motion the universe, created us, or whatever just to be its slaves or warped amusement for whatever games it plays.
You're a writer. Ever feel that same way when writing?
Yes. When I wrote, I could make everything I conceived of do whatever I wanted. I was God in my writings. Speaking of, perhaps I should start again.
What will you write?
Likely a statement of principles that Jassul might want to use.
He already has a few of those.
Perhaps I'll use archaic language. Even better. I'll write them like a religious text!
How's "Terminus Gospel" sound like for title?
GOTWON and Turner continued to talk about writing.
Meanwhile, outside the universe, the two entities were watching. Both were reflecting on the fact that their attention was captured by Thomas.
So, it seems wherever this one mortal goes, our attention is turned.
It is as if we are being guided along by him.
Just imagine it! The Almighty's attention being led around by one of his own creations.
I have no imagination, literally. I am Nonexistence, after all.
And yet, I still follow the advice of the Void.
You feel you have no one else to turn to.
Despair is yet another mortal emotion.
Yet you are still becoming "closer" to the mortal mentality.
I hate being mortal. Myself in the future must not have willed me to see what happens.
There you go again with the mortal concept of time.
I have been thinking recently. Thomas has somehow felt us. I normally do not intervene in the universe. I do not feel I should intervene in the universe. I want my creations to do things for themselves.
And Thomas feels the same way about the TUL intervening with other factions.
All our attention has been focused on Thomas.
And you have been feeling like Thomas. In fact, you originally acted as Thomas's idea of what a Supreme Being would be like.
I am all-knowing, but something is preventing me from accessing the full extent of my knowledge. I am all-seeing, but something is preventing me from accessing things far beyond what Thomas sees. I am all-powerful, but my own "ideals" prevent me from using raw might. I truly feel like I am regressing back to being a mortal.
Then perhaps you are. Something might happen where a mortal currently existing in the universe changes or perhaps even displaces you somehow.
And I know who it is. I feel fairly certain about this.
Who are you, then?
I am Thomas. I don't know how. I don't know why. I feel his memories. I feel his opinions.
Thomas is an atheist. Is it not ironic an atheist can become God?
Very ironic. However, I feel like we shall find out soon the specifics soon enough.
Then we shall watch, and wait.
A mortal shall change the Unchangeable and Almighty… It is unbelievable, even for me, but I know it will happen. It is like I remember the future, but the rest is hazy.
And so the two beings continued their vigil.