Chapter 0: A Time to Live, A Time to Die
Time is a peculiar phenomenon. According to special relativity, it is a fourth dimension, wrapped up in space. To the psyche, time is a variable thing that can fly or stand still. Some argue that time exists only in the mind and all its machinations are due to our inability to comprehend the full extent of time’s arrow.
Having worked with science for over a millennia Paulisaxo Sirocco knows that this last theory is untestable and therefore useless to a reasoned mind. His academic qualifications were only part of the reason he was invited on this mission. Willingness to sit down with clearly belligerent people also played a small role. Dr. Sirocco was also once the foremost military expert on religion and religious groups. That was in a day when information wasn’t free and computation ubiquitous.
All this information stored in the back of his quantum drive was requested and transferred to an attractive female instantaneously as she passed him in a narrow corridor. People never stop and talk these days, he though to himself. He quickly brushed aside the thought of losing humanity to the machines. But nostalgia occasionally griped him away from reality.
It was customary to eat a post-transit meal with the crew. Sirocco balked at unnecessary tradition and no one expected him to attend. He was now on his way back to his quarters near the stern of the ship. Suddenly the thinker experienced a most strange sensation.
Then there was nothing but black.
Chapter 1: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
The object of the doomed mission was to commence face-to-face talks with the "Knights of the Double Helix". This rogue network had long broken off direct neural contact with the Hive. They had done this 'to preserve the human race as God had made it.' The Knights had polarized all dissenting individuals into one 'Holy Communion of Thought.' The Hive, being accepting of different views by necessity, was willing to let the zealots live peacefully as a separate entity apart from the Hive. However, the fundamentalists decided-consciously or unconsciously-that their way of life could only exists as the dominant ideology. They became militant and started hiding in dark places and using covert technologies. Eventually, they were routed and deported to a newly terraformed world they named "New Babylon".
Delegates on this mission included representatives from all the remaining religions. One of the diplomats was an Amish man and his daughter sponsored by a loose coalition of Amish showing passive resistance to the Hive mind. This maiden was young, she had been around Sol no more than 20 times--that is about 631 megaseconds, for those wondering.
She now sits on a planet on the boarder of Knight space, 200 metres from a steaming pile of composite metals and ceramics. The woman, resembling more of a girl, had been sitting in the same place for more than 7 kiloseconds crying into her handmade dress. The pile would shift and fall periodically. Every time this happened, she would instantly stop sobbing, her head would jerk up, and she would stare at the wreckage. Her stare was akin to that of a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming automotive. On all of the previous occasions she would return to crying after 400 seconds or so.
This time was different. This time as she watched a large section of diamond window fell near where she had crawled out of the accident. A person climbed out from under where the window had been. The survivor stared back at the petrified girl. This only made her more frightened. For the other survivor was built like a fullback-with equipment on.
"Are you injured?" yelled the stranger. The girl gave no reply. "Could you lend me some aid?" There was still no reply. "Mary, could you please help me save this man's life?" The girl was surprised. How could anyone know her name? Father must have told the strange person. The man she was trying to save must be her father! Without thinking, she closed the distance between her and the crash in what seemed like only two steps. Mary then hurried up the pile to the survivor, not even noticing the burn she sustained while using a hot deck plate as a handhold.
"This is not my father!" Mary exclaimed as she reached the stranger's position.
"I know it isn't," said the stranger, "but just the same I need your help. I need you to watch him while I go look for a bio-repair kit. He would not like me very much if I revived him post-mortem. You see, he has already died once-in a matter of speaking. I have bandaged his wounds but if his face turns white or blue you must raise his legs… but not too much." The stranger sprinted off saying something about a hive telling the location of something important.
Mary stared at this man. He was completely white, from the colour of his skin to his vestments. They were all white, trimmed with gold. Now tarnished with blood and singed with fire. She wondered how to tell if the man's face turned white. Then she just stared. Three decaseconds passed. To Mary it seemed like no more than a single second had gone by. The huge man leaped over the bank of the depression the girl had been standing in. The survivor then jabbed a long cylinder with a pointed end into the comatose man in white. This was done so quickly that it almost went unseen. Moments later the protruding part of the cylinder melted into the white flesh. Then the big scary man sighed and sat down in the pit beside his charge.
"My apologies, Mary, in the rush I forgot my protocols. My name is Brown Bear, and this is 'Saint Sir Sojun Sunborn'. Have a seat my dear, you seem to be in shock" Mary took a seat on the warm crash. Her dress was ripped and her underwear was clearly visible. She took the remains of her dress and covered her crotch.
"You need not worry about such things here. I have access to the sum total of human knowledge and I myself have a vagina."
"Women shouldn't talk about such things!" Mary yelled angrily.
"I am not a woman--well at least not in your sense of the word. Your religion has shielded you from the universe around you. People are not born anymore, they are created. And besides, I had to get you talking." The Saint opened his eyes.
"Dear merciful Lord, my head hurts." He moaned.
"Well the nanobots are not done then, so don't get up" retorted Brown Bear, "You have died once already."
"Don't hold that against me fair madam." He quipped. "I am afraid we will have to talk until I can realign my entangled radio. What is thy name fair woman?"
"She is not a woman dear sir," Mary voiced " She is an abomination of God. How dare such a person claiming to a saint speak to a perversion with jocularity and not condemnation?" With that, Mary got up and stormed off toward where she was sitting before.
"Maybe she wanted some of those repair bots." Sojun jested.
"No, she just has to come to terms with where she is right now."
"Is that what the Hive thinks or did you come up with that yourself? Most of you are dependant on it."
"We are inter-dependant, I'll have you know. You just like to be different, fight the current."
"Fighting without a cause is silly but fighting for a cause is necessary." Brown Bear stood up, inhaled as deep as she could.
"There is at least one more survivor, start digging there."
Chapter 2: The Wind Speaks