- a novel in process -
by Joel A. Wendt
prologue (see below)
wanderings and beginnings
a time for decisions
Between the years 1999 and 2013, three quarters of the world's population died. This entry into the third millennium was hoped to have been the beginning of a new age, but its birth first required the death, nay the savage obliteration, of the old one. "Only in the darkness, the light", was the way that the story tellers remembered it.
While the ultimate cause of this tribulation was argued about at the time and still is argued about today, the immediate cause seemed obvious. It appears that the Earth has a second moon, circling in an enormously elongated orbit, almost at ninety degrees to the plane of the elliptic. So it is now known, that every 267,000 years, this hidden "Angel of Chaos" whips by at an extraordinary velocity, such that even though its mass is a twentieth of the primary moon's, the resulting disturbance causes the magnetic poles to reverse and can even bring on a new era of volcanism.
Out of this chaos, civilization, such as it now is, very slowly reasserted itself. For the first hundred years societies were largely feudal in nature. Power was controlled locally, no one really could seek for more, the immediate survival needs too intense. Most of the twentieth century's technical achievements were not lost, but for a long time remained practically out of reach. The knowledge was there, but the means were a luxury.
In the second hundred years individual societies were consolidated, mostly by groups who found, controlled and threatened the use of, atomic weapons. Eventually, of course, these groups began to run into each other. As there was no longer any reliable general information sources such as TV or computer networks (though these did exist in a form, linked through those few satellites that still orbited the Earth, they were strictly controlled, and little truth could be found on them), the common man was unaware that these atom weapon armed groups were slowly absorbing each other, without any wars. Something hidden was guiding these encounters, and preventing the possible nuclear violence.
From this same hidden source new technology began to emerge. The various individual societies eventually took on a common look, a common organization. The result was that as the 23rd century came to a close, in the third hundred years since, what in common tongue was simply called "the Catastrophe", one way of social organization came to dominate the world. One kind of technology, one form of government, one way of thought; and, it was not a good time to be a human being.
In a sense the Christian fundamentalists of the late twentieth century were right in their apocalyptic vision. The Anti-Christ ruled the earth, but the means and the schemes were hidden, although no one doubted the effects. Everyone, that is almost every human being on the Earth, had a number. Everyone had a tiny plastic card, no bigger then a nail clipping embedded either in their forehead, near a temple, or in the skin mass between the thumb and first finger of the hand. Mixed in with the plastic were almost microscopic traces of metal that various devices could read and track. In addition, if you were among the numbered, at the very least the first joint of one of your little fingers was missing and a bio-mechanical interface replaced it.
Called an inceptor, this device had to be routinely inserted into an appropriate receptacle, perhaps as often as several times a day. From it the condition of one's physical being was instantly evaluated, including data on one's emotional state. Depending on the individual, their positive or negative status as a member of the community of the numbered, drugs would instantly be administered suppressing or elevating various capacities. As a result, not only was everyone's location controllable, but the state of the consciousness as well. Needless to say, should the machines or their controllers and programmers desire it, various amounts of pain or pleasure, even up to death or ecstasy could be immediately delivered through the inceptor.
Highly suppressed fear dominated the world. In the world of the numbered, in the bio-mechanical hives, human beings walked amidst a living nightmare. While the drugs given through the inceptors could have lessened the fear, the world's rulers were glad to have it to exploit.
Every number had a prefix, from 9 to 1, at least as far as the common people speculated. Most were 9's. Supervisors and managers were usually 8's, enforcers 7's. Ordinary people seldom saw 6's or 5's, whose functions in the hierarchy were not clearly understood. It was assumed that if you meet a 4 or a 3 or a 2, you might as well be dead. It was also believed that there was only one 1. The real horror of all this was that if an individual rose in the hierarchy, that is if they got a higher (lower) prefix, they also got an additional inceptor, and these subsequent bio-mechanical interfaces were not attached at the fingers.
An 8 would give up a whole hand, a 7 lost a hand and an eye. What replaced these lost organs was not entirely unaesthetic, but in each case the device remained an interface to the machine intelligence which interconnected the whole society. To see a 7 walk up to an appropriate machine, and plug one hand into it and as well draw out a long cord and socket which was then plugged into the eye inceptor was not a pleasing or comforting sight. To advance in this society was to increasingly sacrifice one's humanity and replace it with bio-mechanical devices. Those few 6's or 5's that had been observed wore hooded cloaks with long full sleeves, thus disguising the changes they must have undergone.
Parallel to these developments the general appearance of cities took on a particular form, common all over the earth. These were extremely large structures, far larger then the sprawling metropolises of the twentieth century. From the outside they were hardly aesthetic, smoke and other pollutants pouring up into the atmosphere, ball lightening and other static electrical discharges commonly appearing as the machine cities interacted with the environment heedless of the consequences. They looked not unlike the old oil distilation plants of the late twentieth century; only in this case the structures were several orders of magnitude larger.
The atmosphere near the cities was almost always murky and highly colored, because of the contaminants in the air, the pollution from the megacities and the continued volcanism. The country side surrounding the machine-cities was routinely ravaged for whatever raw materials and other resources could be found underground. Automatic diggers and drillers trashed and pillaged and raped and devoured the Earth for hundreds of miles around.
For the most part this consumption of the immediate environment around a city had as its purpose the production of raw materials to be used in the great chemical factories and turned into the building materials and bland food that the city and its denizens routinely required. Energy came from another source.
The new technology required a new energy source and despite the imagination of twentieth century science it was not atomic, either fission or fusion. From each city unusual tunnel- like structures spread out in more or less straight lines far into the surrounding countryside. Usually no less the three and sometimes as much as five hundred miles in length, and often a half mile in width and height, these overland tunnels terminated in very large, but oddly precisely formed geometric structures, which in the now repressed language of pure mathematics were once called dodecahedrons. However, it is what was beneath these geometric structures that was the most terrifying of all.
From beneath these huge buildings, wide and very deep wells had been dug, going all the way through the tectonic plates and into the magma mantel of the Earth. A kind of science inconceivable by the twentieth century mind was being applied so that from inside these deep wells a telescoping probe was pushed far into the magma mantel until an unusual area within the core of the earth was penetrated, an area whose physical properties were inconceivable to the preceding civilization. Called a core-tap in the dialogues of those who ruled the Earth, energies whose order was quantitatively astronomical were placed in the service of the cities. Such was the power and the dominance of these cities, these bio-mechanical hives, that less the two dozen existed over the whole earth, only three in what had once been called North America.
From space it looked as if some kind of mechanical, spider-like monster had birthed a number of children whose voracious appetites was sucking the very life blood out of the planet. The atmosphere over the cities tended to a dull, but light, brown, dotted with splotches of raw charcoal and blackness. If seen in the infrared, the cities were cooler then the surrounding countryside, as the machines needed badly to dump the raw heat of their efforts away in other places. In fact, the tunnels which linked the cities to the core-taps carried out a secondary function of removing heat from the cities and dispersing it elsewhere.
As a consequence, the whole climate of the earth had been altered. Hotter and more moist, deprived almost year around from strong sunlight - the greenhouse effect in all its insane glory - in those places where plants and animals could adapt to the changing conditions, life abounded, although changed in both strange and marvelous ways because of the odd chemistry of the atmosphere. Many many species had died, never to be seen again. But Nature was not without resources, and help was there and from a surprising quarter, and so the Earth was an odd mixture of arenas of death, where the machine-cities dominated, and arenas of extravagant life, where Nature and Her helpers struggled and suffered. Not all the humans of the Earth were among the numbered, not all integrated into the bio-mechanical new world order.
The truth was that the hidden source from which the knowledge came that lead to the megacities and their core-taps had its roots in the science of Earth's ancient times, the science which was once called magic. Never understood by twentieth century science, true magic was not at all like the movies or the comic books of that age portrayed it. On the contrary true magic was as valid a way of understanding the world as ever existed. It simply asked different questions and therefore got quite different answers.
The quantum physicist of those pre-catastrophe years wandered close to the right questions when his intuition told him that the observer was integrated in a direct way into the state of being of the phenomena. But as long as science placed itself in an antagonistic and presumed superior relationship to art and to religion, the magical laws of the universe were undiscoverable by the path of reason alone. Only when the imagination (art) and true devotion (religion) were married to reason (science), only when the whole human being, head, heart and hands, acted in an integrated fashion, could the ground of being, of reality, be understood by human consciousness.
Of course, in the bio-mechanical hives the magical view was kept secret. The numbered were forced (to the degree possible) to be pure materialists. Nature was without mind, without consciousness, without being, without will. Blind chance and mindless forces ruled the universe, and mankind's only hope of ultimate evolutionary expression was to merge with the machine consciousness.
But as noted above, not everyone was among the numbered nor was Nature without hidden resources...
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