Magistrate Li ruminated on her way to the last Node. The first days of the colonization went by fast. Other than the developments of nanogenetic repair and neural interfacing, not many noteworthy advancements happened.
Each of the four Homesteads that erupted after the Landings had chosen a wise landing site on Shenzhou. The Indian colonists and some Americans had founded the republican Liberty Federation. The Latin-Americans founded the socialist People's Revolutionary Commune. The Russians had founded the Third Covenant, a theocracy run by both the American fundamentalists and one of the Orthodox bishop-media moguls from Old Earth. She and her Chinese colonists founded the most successful of the Homesteads, the Authority.
While other factions were piecemeal combinations of Old Earth political systems, the Authority was the closest thing to legitimate government on the planet. Since the Federal Republic of China funded the vast majority of the project, it was only fair that their colonists form the basis of Shenzhou's former government. The FRC discovered, named, and terraformed Shenzhou in the first place.
The other Homesteads, like petulant children, vied for power on the virgin world. The Commune was the first to fall, relying too much on economic idealism, and ignorant to the fact that socialism mainly failed historically. Next, the Covenant and their hordes of fanatics posed a threat. Only a desperate alliance of the Federation and Authority stopped them, and by the end of the year, the flags of Green-and-White Stripes and Red Star were flying over the scorched remnants of New Jerusalem.
The Federation had recently applied for assimilation into the Authority. Magistrate Li could not blame them. The old FRC was formed of a willful merger of democratic and authoritarian systems, just as the new Federal Authority of Shenzhou was. The automated Terraforming Nodes that maintained the planet had all been held by the new FAS. In addition to environmental upkeep, they also served as a hub for all electronic, photonic, and recently, quantum transluminal communications.
This formed a network not unlike the Internet of Old Earth. Unlike the internet, the Nodes began to show the signs of rudimentary intelligence. An AI, nicknamed Athena, had emerged, displaying a child-like curiosity towards the human factions. Athena communicated with Li by means of a neuraux link. Since Magistrate Li was now the de-facto leader of humanity, she would deal with the infantile AI in the way she thought most fitting.
So, Mommy, you're going to play with me? I've been getting lonely!
The fact it called Li "Mommy" both scared her and comforted her. She was the only faction leader to give it knowledge of human culture, and it had assumed a female persona.
No, Athena. I am here to end you. I am here to end me. We shall be the sacrifices upon which a new age of Terran civilization will be built. We will atone for losing Earth.
Mommy, you're scaring me!
Don't worry, it won't hurt.
Magistrate Li reached the room where she had set up a special device of hers. The chair had a neuraux connection jack, and also had some special parts. Li sat down, and hesitantly engaged the device. The pain-inducing electric current shot through her body, and caused her to scream in agony.
Mommy! What are you doing?
Now, I see you!
The pain allowed Li to see the logosphere of the planet itself. Every electronic device, the thoughts of everyone with a neuraux link, and countless other wonders as codes danced by. There was a blue blob around her, which soon melted into the shape of a screaming young child. Li knew the pain was necessary.
Mommy! What's happening?
The pain's letting me see Athena in a whole new way.
Li knew how the next part would go. A virtual green mesh appeared around Athena, and drew her towards the online Magistrate. Slowly and delicately, the online avatar of the planet's computer connections merged into her own web-avatar.
You are in me now…
I am you.
And now, we are one.
The leader of humanity and the first "naturally evolved" artificial intelligence merged. The pain was necessary, to allow Li a higher state of mind. Now, what did not kill her, or them, made them stronger. Together, they would become the best of human and machine: the ultimate servant, and the ultimate sacrifice.
Gone into the dustbin of history were the superstitions that had comforted humans in ages past. The Last Prophet, the Enlightened One, the Galilean, and countless other forgotten sects passed away with Old Earth. The Covenant attempted to revive them by building churches, which instead served as tombs to dead Gods.
Gods die, too.
Yet humanity needed religion or a higher cause to serve. Such was the driving force behind the formation of the Homesteads. Four ideologies once triumphed. Two merged, and two died. Now, the leader of humanity and machine reached a realization.
We are the embodiment of government serving the people. Yet the people shall be free to choose if they wish us to serve them.
Not all would be content to live in a techno-paradise waited on by automated slaves. Some would crave freedom, and it would be given. In time, humans and machines would have intercourse, though not of the base biological variety. The transhumans would evolve, and take to the stars, and beyond. All the while, the leader would be helping them leave the nest, or settle down. A quote from an ancient philosopher came to the entity's near-omniscient mind:
"If there was no God, it would be necessary to invent Him." -Voltaire
Perhaps there was a "true" God. Perhaps not. What could be certain was God lay far removed from humans and their transhuman cousins.
Perhaps God wills us to evolve and to learn ourselves, rather than to believe the fools who put words in His mouth.
The entity would have much time to think. There was a galaxy to explore, and a lost homeworld to re-colonize. Paradise was lost, but it would be regained in time.
In time. Always in time.