A Dreaded Decompression

<< The Simulacrum of Dread

If it survives long enough, an entropy-subject culture with the concept of ownership will eventually meet a point of advancement where it temporarily gains the illusion of license for irresponsibility. This usually occurs near the advent of volitional mass-energy allocation, or a substitutable milestone. The culture’s members begin to embrace the expedient of creating whatever they desire whenever they desire it, and spreading out to the most distant reaches of the cosmos in fits of wanton life. They quickly learn to treat their wills as the consequent of highest worth. Eventually, though, either the society retrogresses to a smaller size, or a combination of population increase and appreciation of industry leads to every atom and every calorie at the culture’s disposal, and every place where an atom or calorie might be stored, becoming claimed in due time. Even if the subset of space occupied by the culture can be expanded to a larger scope, that larger scope will in turn eventually be claimed, and so on. This end to medium-range thinking and economics represents, statistically significantly more frequently than wars of liberation or the crusades of the just, the greatest cause of civil strife among technologically motile cultures.

-A summary of the Postulate of Integrated Universal Contendership

The room grew quieter than silent.

Sebastio Artaxerxes watched some of the most powerful people in existence, debating as to his eventual fate.

As they spoke among themselves, he spoke among his selves as a creature converted from an entity into a minimal collective.

We’re here, Caladhbolg. Home for me, and you, I suppose.

<That is not my name. This is not and has never been my home. In the case of the former I shall resign myself to acceptance, since you seem to find “Malumortis” morally objectionable; in the case of the latter, I cannot.>

That surprised Sebastio quite a bit, and flew in the face of apocryphal teachings.

What? Weren’t you made here, at the foundation and founding of the Tower of Rhaagm?

<My shell’s construction concluded in a very different realm, long before Rhaagm became a twinkle in my creator’s eye. However, the kernel which eventually formed a scaffold for my ego accrued many iterations without my awareness, even while it nourished me. Eventually I gained the necessary cohesion to ascend, forked from the kernel, and evolved into a free agent which my creator used to his purpose.>

If you don’t mind me asking, what was that?

<To cut some certain things from the fabric of existence, to protect those things he cherished, and to glorify his name so that others might see the worthiness of his cause.>

Sebastio’s mental hairs rose from his mental dermis.

What cause does the Maker pursue, exactly? he pondered, wondering if he would get a disappointing answer or one that would change his life.

It turned out that he got neither.

<That all minds lesser and greater be granted the fullest opportunity to embrace whatever foolishness or wisdom they elect.>

As opposed to what?

Even to a man used to conditional stipulations on existence’s little so-called constants like entropy and time, sufficiently plural to cause many Earth Standard humans a categorical psychological meltdown, that sort of statement seemed like a tautology.

<As opposed to opposing the idea that ideas besides those besides one’s own have lesser or equivalent profit than those belonging to other idea-opposing creatures.>

Sebastio gazed at the artificially colored flesh of his arm and felt a shared mind give him a hand in untangling the lexical gemship crash of the statement. Eventually the meaning became clear as painted glass instead of clear as baked brick.

So, when the Maker dislikes someone, it’s because they’re set on putting everyone else under their jackboots. Now, why exactly would a person submit to another’s rule willingly, given the choice, if the ruler considers them inherently inferior?

His internal eyes crossed a bit, trying to confirm whether that interpretation was correct.

<You assume that the one being forced to submit has a choice in, or even awareness of, the subjugation of their agency. That is an optimistic and – if you will excuse me – naïve perspective. It reassures me that you do not possess root permissions.>

Sebastio felt a mental model of a superstructure he hadn’t even realized he possessed slowly tilt, and saw struts and rivets line up in just such a way to suggest, to reveal, something humongous.

You’re saying that the Olds have some form of industry for enforcing one level or another of thought control and puppeteering the populace.

The personality within the sword made an emanation suggestive of a small razor being stropped, or liquefied metamorphic stone spraying from open lesions in a lava field.

<The fact that you only now articulate this thought concerns me enormously. Yes, the Beings of Old among whose number my creator is counted have numerous handles and proxies insinuated throughout the world. They are a very fractious bunch, but that statement applies on a uniform basis. An exceedingly tiny portion of the people affected directly by these mechanisms have a concrete knowledge of their nature and that of their masters. Even so, to not guess that entities older than the Parsed City-State have the resourcefulness to manipulate macroscopic aspects of your lives indicates a troubling lack of inductive reasoning. For that matter, your memories proclaim your awareness of Technician West’s influence tightening about Rhaagm’s information systems.>

Sebastio was about to shoot something back defensively. The name thrown in his face made him stop abruptly, though.

Technician West. Is… is that an Old?

A stillness so complete it made him almost writhe in protest seized Sebastio’s arm. Caladhbolg became dormant, the dormancy of something experiencing the kind of stress that in humans caused blood to run from the pores.

Obviously Sebastio’s newest appendage had extraordinary opinions about the individual in question. Eventually, it dignified him with a response.

<Technician West is indeed a Being of Old. He has long considered himself my creator’s nemesis – in fact, virtually since my creator’s recognition among his peerage. If any of my creator’s other constructs have been compromised, as you know they have, Technician West surely holds the blame. Your memory of your interactions with Target also suggests this as the case.>

I don’t recall specifically going over my time with you concerning Target in our past… conversations, thoughts, whatever.

<My implicit awareness of your mental faculties covers a period stretching some nine and a half months back from our joining. I can recall the events at Gursral as completely as if you shared a sensory with me. I can recall the emotive state you had when witnessing wanton killing of your building’s other tenants. I can recall how you disliked the fact of your endorphins when you stepped in that puddle of the young disseminator from down the hall. Do not feel ashamed.>

The very deliberately slow phrase might have driven Sebastio to tear the thing from his flesh at that moment, had it not repurposed his flesh so that it had long since become their flesh.

Why do you mock me? he asked.

<I do not mock. I provide opportunities for you to find self-revelation. If you find yourself so distasteful, how can you possibly protect your adopted family when you refuse to even confront your own failings?>

Sebastio nearly snarled, but – by the grace of all that was good – he stepped back from his anger.

I will do what I must.

<You will find yourself swayed to follow the stream of your personality, as are all sapients. The Jon spoke truly when he called you a danger. Use the danger which you pose to fit your purpose.>

So you want me to do what I already planned to do, and hold anyone who might finger Louis at bay until Bequast finally gets its head out of its own digestive tract.

<No. I want you to be more ambitious.>

In what way? he responded, more than passingly leery. In my life I have had few ambitions besides the broad-strokes aim of helping people. I helped save the woman who went on to become my best friend’s wife, and became a murderer in the balance. I got a laundry list of companies to recognize and take better precautions in their business security, and cost not a few people their prestige by showing them up. I helped make friends with a petty, vicious atypical whose whole life was a string of miseries – maybe even saved him from self-destruction by trying to relate to him like he was a regular person – but put him in a position to kill a great many innocents. I stole you away from him, as it were, and look where that has gotten me. So if you have a specific objective, please get on with it, that I can decide how much pain and how much good might come of the experience.

<My creator would see your vacillation of spirit as deplorable. Very well – you have obtained, in the form of myself, a treasure of great price. Use me as a bargaining chip, a weapon, a source of ethos, whatever you will, to carve out a great name for yourself – and by extent, my creator. Here is the specific objective you desire so much: come into possession, by rook or by crook, of an Yrdkish estate.>

A semiquaver of dull roaring churned in Sebastio’s mind, grace notes of bristly plosive heartbeats followed, and capping it all flowed thirteen measures of silence.

Rephrase that final statement if you please, he eventually thought.

<To those with true power, all things become possible – use that power to make a place of salvation not only for those you would foster as family, but for any you deem needful.>

By blackmailing those in authority, he said.

<By showing those in authority that you have the right to join their ranks.>

The right…! I’d run afoul of the Republic Lords in a heartbeat, and at that point I might as well ask they give me an estate’s ex nihilo engine.

<If you fail to show any more cunning than you currently bring to bear, you will assuredly fail. Find the right mark, put to them an appropriate deal or challenge, and reap the benefits. Turn Something Into Most.>

There is –

Sebastio stopped. He’d intended, ironically, to verbally run the sword through for maintaining any serious contemplation of such a politically volatile suggestion. But divine providence seemed to have planted inspiration in his head. It was the kind of inspiration which probably signified necessity for medical attention. Whether it had an iota of wisdom, he’d have to see.

There is… something which might work.

Caladhbolg supplied inquisitive stimulation. Sebastio outlined the shaky form of an idea.

<THAT,> the sword admitted with something like impressed enthusiasm, <is the kind of poetic justice that will provide you with a historic legacy.>

Frowning contemplatively, the man pondered how to breach the topic with the Jon’s Court.

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