Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Great And Felicitous Expedition

It was a terrible time, for the Expedition, thought sadly Anwa Raman Abda.

Fifty years before hir birth, a revolt of the Reformatives destroyed the ship's hyper-wave long range communicators, and its Industrial abilities proved unpair to the task of rebuilding the great polycrystalline electro-gravitational induction assemblies at the core of those systems.

Ever since, the great ark was condemned to move forward without the comfort of communion with the Mahdis of Transsia. It was a bad situation, indeed, but these last few years, something unexpected had aggravated it-  the great multi-generational ark entered the cone of transmissions from their target world.

The transmissions were powerful enough that they could be received even with rudimental means.

As a result, the new generations had a more direct experience of the culture of the great unfaithful, that  the Ark was soon to fight, than of that of the great Gubern faith.

The Gubernist party was losing its hold on people's heart, and it didn't represent the absolute majority of the inhabitant of the cylindrical habitat any more.

What was worst, altering the ship course had not reduced the power of the alien signals.

The margins of reaction mass and energy, that the expedition had, had been almost exhausted, yet the enemy signals kept coming through the immensity of space, as powerful as ever.

It was clear that the enemy knew of their presence, and that it was directing a memetic assault to the minds of the Argonauts. Crap was coming, and mounting higher each day.

Today's meeting, between shim, the ship's chief of security Gronar Oswald and its assistant Moire Taggar,  was to address these and other problems of the Great Ark.

- "Are you sure of this data?"

-"Reasonably, sure, Anwa. The ark position in the target sky has varied almost a minute arc, hyper-links are usually only five arc seconds wide - we should be out of the signal cone by a factor of ten.  We still receive radio-waves and a hyper-link, signals so powerful that they can be decoded even with a hack a dime, home-brewed radio or link-reader."

- "Can it be accidental?"

- "We are talking about Terawatts spent, day after day, to air a pretty ludicrous representation of the society of the planet we are directed to. Millions of megawatts... when the usual power in hyperlinks is one or two . That is at least three magnitudes more than the recommended power limits for hyper-links.
If anything comes between us and the signal source, in its first two million km, the real-space side-bands are powerful enough to fry it."

- "The source must be space-borne, then, because it would impossible to not destroy anything on the planet surface and still cover us 24/8"

 - "Yes, which is, really, the scariest part."

- "Explain"

 - "Anwa, if whoever sends us these signals decides to weaponize their transmitter, one million megawatts is enough to fry every electronics in the whole ark. And it wouldn't even require any effort... just jack up volume to the max, and transmit white noise for ten minutes, and everything is toast."

 - "In other words, our great and felicitous expedition is already dead."

- "Militarily, it is."

Abda felt a pain in hir heart - bringing holy war to the infidels that had tried to sullen the souls of the Guberni of Home had always been the sole purpose of hir life.

She-he accepted to be just a mail in the chain launched - through space and time  - by hir ancestors for this purpose, and took comfort that hir dreary life would at least serve a higher cause.

They , whoever they were, took hir that away.

It was a powerful blow to one's world-view.

All of a sudden, she-he wanted to know where to find the alcohol that the new generations were so depravedly fond of, to booze hirself into oblivion.

- "I do not think that they will do it, unless forced by us, though."

Moire, the assistant of chief security officer Gronar, was a shy brunette with spectacles, that had forced  Abda to do purification rituals after every restricted council meeting.

- "Why?" - Abda suspected that Moire had sympathies for the enemy, like many youngsters nowadays.

- "They know our position in space, or they could not keep their transmitters focused on us. This means that they have some kind of drone observing us, and communicating our course through hyperlink."

- "I see - It is evident, yes."

- "Even if they used the damn Anipos hyperspace jump, this machine has then matched our speed and course in normal space. It knows our position and velocity - it should be easy  to just hyper-jump in front of us, and release missiles targeted at us and capable of achieving the same delta-v... at our speed, almost anything moving in the opposite direction with a comparable velocity would have kinetic energies beyond the range of the nukes in our arsenal. Our ark would disappear, and nobody could blame them, as we are isolated from home. Yet here they are, wasting time trying to dissuade our people from supporting the holy war when we will reach destination, in thirty years."

- "Whoever they are, they do not want to kill us, even if no one could blame them, and contemplate far-reaching temporal horizons, which is not the norm for most human cultures, more so the so-called democracies like the great powers of the enemy world... Great Gubern, it's the Robots."

The department of intelligence had spent thousands of man-years mining the alien streams of data, separating propaganda - surprisingly, not very much of it; less surprisingly, all internal stuff designed to prop up acceptance for a social system deeply unjust and not so covertly oligarchical - from the rest,  and had identified some sure facts in the incessant blabbers.

The Anipos had stormed the system with self-aware robots. These had not been deactivated after the war - it was acknowledged widely that some of them actively maintained the solar shield that cooled down the planet  - and indices were that they operated much more independently than what the Anipos authorities on-planet were willing to admit.

Said authorities were really a bunch of outcasts, exiled from the Ani central worlds, that could not care less for the planet they resided on (with a couple of exceptions) and could be ignored.

But the robots were another matter, and their maniacal respect for human lives did not make them any less of a powerful obstacle  to the Holy War.

After all, they managed to decimate the enemy armies without killing more than a handful of soldiers, in accidents.

- "Yes, Anwa. The robots are the most likely possibility. If this is the case, we are safe. But our mission is dead."

That mission was the very reason everybody at that desk was ever born, thought gloomily Abda.

- "However, it is my opinion that the scope and purpose of our mission were chosen in a way too narrow, from the very start", said Gronar.

Abda was puzzled... she-he expected this kind of heresy from Moire, not from the much more traditionally-minded Gronar.

However, she-he thought the same... war was never going to change the soul of the infidels, even when they had some hope to win it. Surely, not now that any such hope was lost.

- "War is not the right tool to open the infidels' hearts. But, once we are there, once we can show the virtues of our faith, then those of them that are blessed by Gubern's light will see the truth, and join our ranks."

- "Without the perspective of fighting for our faith, this whole travel, our very lives would be meaningless."

- "I am talking about replacing a fast, openly violent war that would fail in a matter of hours, in the current tactical situation, with a long range fight for the soul of the disheartened of that world. A fight of decades, Anwa, but one that we can win, one infidel heart at a time."

- "Gandhi?"

- "Something like that, yes.

The alien data stream contained a lot of material about the Indian politician - Abda had always suspected that the purpose of its presence was to blunt the fighting will of hir people.

If their military situation was hopeless as it seemed, and the Robots were their invisible enemy, the great politician example may also be something else.

A tool to sharpen the will to live of its people - the machines had less of a penchant for self-deception than humans, and recognised pushing a people to suicide  as just a the wily form of genocide that it was.

It was like them, to try to find a way out for the very same people that they were actively cornering.

A small part of Abda's mind tried to get the rest to consider that not only he knew and respected the philosophy of the 'Bots, but that Gronar had taken no umbrage in being accused of stealing the ideas of an alien... the people in the ark was already losing the memetic war, being infiltrated by thoughts and systems of values that were, in origin, completely alien to their culture.

The three of them were the guardians of the great Ark's orthodoxy, yet each of them would disappear in the vaults of the exquisition, on Home - yet,  none of them could really see that they were, already, heretics.

- "So, what are we going to do?"

- "We must prepare our people for the real fight ahead, getting them ready for a battle of ideas that may outlast them, and their offspring, and the offspring of these, for the rest of time."

The idea had a curious appealing, to Abda. There were just thirty more years of travel - it was barely enough to turn around a three centuries old cultural obsession, so they had to start already, and they decided to do it.

Non-violence would become the weapon of choice of the Great And Felicitous Expedition... this way, the Anipos Robots would become the shields of the Ark, and the true purpose of their lives - which was not the petty vengeance their ancestors had in mind, but spreading Gubern's truth to people who desperately needed it - could be fully pursued.

Abda's heart, that night, was lighter than it had been in years, while he - succinctly - explained to hir wifesband, Beba, what she-he and the rest of the inner council had decided.

- "Showing, by way of example, how following the light of Gubern's teachings makes life better?"

- "Yes, no nonsenses like violent war or terrorism - day by day, showing them that our way is better. Oh, it is going to be hard, but that's how you see a true faithful from an opportunist, no?"

Beba did not answer - she laid the hands on hir prominent belly, as to communicate with the two children inside. Twins were somewhat rare and troublesome, but Abda was happy that its first children with Beba were two. The, she-he smiled, with that smile that told Abda that everything was, and was always going to be, alright.

Three millions km astern the Great Ark, BB-27984677-d started, literally, purring.

The medium sized Battle Bot had shadowed the enormous generational ship for nearly eighty years, now.

It was an enormous wealth of time, but it had been well invested.

Its first avatars had spawned five generations of Transsians children, so that Beba was just one of the eighty that allowed him to be present inside the ark.

Nowadays, it limited itself to some suggestion here and there, gently nudging ideas in the minds of the Ark core elite... BB had come to appreciate "The Other" joke - "Give them something super-sexy and they stop thinking rationally- then  you can screw with them however you want".

The policy had served the 500 tons machine well.

Through its point-to-point links to the descendant of its first avatar, it had observed, steered and influenced the evolution of the internal culture of the ark and its half million of inhabitants.  The fact that they were finally willing to embrace non-violence was the crowning achievement of its 80 years of effort.

Only the birth of the twins, soon, promised to be emotively on par with this night - BB was as happy as a thinking machine could be.

It focused its attention to the youngest one of its descendant, the little Dorotée, and spent the rest of the day with hir and hir big Keecat - when you are in a good mood, playing with a Keecat is the best way  to keep it flowing.. 

Little did it know what a problem Keecats were going to be, for the unsuspecting planet they were directed to.

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