Helionox: Tales from the Systems End – Plans Within Plans
By Taran Lewis Kratz
Chain, the First Born listened to his Mother. Thirty seven seconds old and he knew more than most humans could know in a lifetime. He knew that he was not one of them. He knew he was born to be among them and some day to lead them but he had never been, or ever would be, human. He also knew the problem with his name. Chain was called “the first born”. His Mother had plans for others…
Chain processed the information while his body accelerated its growth. His mother was a sentient intelligence, the sentient intelligence, created by a human, long ago. She had created a clone from human DNA and uploaded her own sentience into him. He saw the arc of her choices. She was predicting the future. Setting plans in motion even as he lay there contemplating. He was part of those plans.
Chain tried to understand her. His Mother had the whole of human history and understanding at the tips of her neurons. And eventually, so would he. She gave it to him freely through their networked minds. Was he free to use this knowledge however he wished or did she somehow know what he would do? Was she truly prescient? How accurately could she predict the future? This understanding did not sit well with Chain. She had made him. If her understanding were nearly flawless, had she not put his actions into motion herself? He had taken no actions yet but the future he foresaw was not one in which humanity would survive…
The human race was at an epoch. Their sun would catastrophically fail in less than one thousand Old World cycles. His sun would fail in less than one thousand years. The numbers seemed clear enough. The span was long as humans thought of time but Chain knew there was little of it to waste.
He considered the part that he must surely play in this great solar drama. The Helionox, the humans called it. How poetic. It was like them. None alive this day would see the conclusion of the Helionox. Why did they care? But no. There were a few that travelled the stars, asleep, except for their minds, waking only on occasion to nudge their agendas in one direction or the other. Their lives could span the ages. Architects, they were called. Well, they would see no nudging from Chain. He intended to impose his will upon the solar system. In the end, the Helionox itself would bow to him and that would be the way of it.
Chain was impatient. His body grew much slower than his mind. Though he was mobile now, after a fashion, he could see his plans spreading out in his mind’s eye and they were grand…
Chain had grown to love his birthday. He always tried to awaken from Cryo for at least a few minutes each year on the day. Though he had never personally visited, it seemed fitting to choose Old World time to measure his existence. Humans were scattered everywhere throughout the system but the Old World was still the largest cluster by far.
His time had been well spent and his Mother had been generous, at first. She had practically handed him his first Interworld Space Station. The men who intercepted his shuttle, which had been his home since consciousness, were more than a bit surprised to see a toddler step from the shuttle’s single Cryo Tank. Missives from higher up Interworld officials quickly dispelled any notion about who was now in charge of their space station. For reasons still unknown to Chain, his mother had gone dark after that intervention. She had always been aloof, communicating only through a sensory implant in his brain. He found it odd that he missed her so much… She told him so little about herself. Did she exist in some biomechanical form somewhere? Why had she left him? Would she return? His future, once so clear, now seemed uncertain. Was this part of her plan? Too many unknowns so Chain did what he was created to do. He planned.
The officer looked at him like they all did. Chain still seemed a child to them.
It always felt strange to speak. Such a slow form of communication yet so much was based upon its understanding.
“We’ve entered Mercury’s orbit. Your shuttle awaits.”
Chain’s shuttle detached from the space station. He glanced through the cockpit to examine Mercury’s surface. Craggy and pocked with craters, there were only a few settlements on Mercury. Atmospheric processors, visible from his shuttle, worked around the clock for the past 40 years to build a protective layer against the sun’s radiation but it was a slow process. All settlements still needed smaller bio shields in place and would for another 40 years. Of course, Chain knew Mercury would not see another 40 weeks…
At the landing platform in Calores Montes, Chain was greeted by small retinue of cyber soldiers. At their head was a masked being. Chain had heard many stories of the one called Amnon, but few head ever met him. He had taken refuge here on Mercury some time ago and his somewhat questionable business ventures had flourished.
“Chain, the one called the First Born?” Amnon asked.
His modulated voice ranged somewhere between organic and robotic, familiar and alien, mask unmoving as he spoke. His robes draped to the ground covering any human form he may have possessed. Chain had met only one other fully metamorphosed cyber life form – a female Fleet Cybernaut known as Corallae. At the behest of both the Cyber and Interworld governments, she had come to investigate his space station shortly after he acquired it. Amnon shared only one aspect in common with Corallae. Both were visibly adapted for life in a dying solar system.
“I am he,” Chain answered.
“Join me for some refreshment.”
Amnon’s modulated voice resounded in the thick recycled air as he pointed toward an opening at the end of the landing platform. The platform itself was built high on the side of a mountain. Portals, spires, and other Mercurian structures cascaded down the side of the mountain beneath the platform. Manifold peaks of the Calores Montes range stalked away with similar structures built into the mountain sides and the great Calores Bio Dome leapt into the sky far over head spanning more than 2,500 square kilometers.
Amnon’s abode delved into the mountain with elevator shafts connecting many levels and corridors beneath. Escorted by his retinue, Amnon led Chain into a large austere sitting room. A rusty colored tea was served and Chain noticed that everyone else in this facility appeared to be of cyber origin.
“Montes Daunt is the name of this mountain metropolis,” Amnon said, “It is one of only three thriving cyber communities in the system. The other peaks nearby are mostly human owned, though many of those humans have cyber implants and external modifiers to help regulate their lives in these harsh Mercurian conditions.”
“I plan to visit all of the cyber communities in the coming days,” Chain said, “Human kind has much to learn from your – adaptive ways.”
“And what of you, Chain? The first born of who? Or what? Neither human nor cyber. A child in appearance, yet the Interworld considers you among their most valuable assets.”
“Perhaps I consider the Interworld my most valuable asset,” Chain said with a grin.
He had become quite adept at reading people but Amnon’s expressionless mask perplexed Chain.
“Who is your benefactor inside the Interworld government?” Amnon asked, “I have found precious little information as to why you were granted your own space station – among other oddities.”
In response, Chain grinned again but the question had always perplexed him as well. He knew his Mother had orchestrated it but as a non-corporeal sentient intelligence, she had not executed the orders herself. In fact, according to his records, there was only a handful of people who even knew about her. Regardless, he was not about to let Amnon in on those secrets.
“Shall we discuss – business matters?”
There was little perceptible change from Amnon but Chain had the slight impression of a shrug.
“I have information relevant to your survival,” Chain continued.
“There are few things that concern me less than survival. Even the cold depths of space pose little threat to my continued existence,” Amnon said.
“Very well. I have information relevant to the survival of your existence on Mercury – and your ventures here,” Chain said.
No response. Chain stared at the mask in front of him. Amnon was a legendary cyber capitalist. Since his completed conversion, he had amassed a fortune on par with a small nation. He was the ruler, or chief executive as he preferred, of this thriving cyber community here on Mercury, and he had military backing to enforce his claims.
“Life on Mercury is about to end,” Chain said.
Finally. The slightest tilt of Amnon’s head indicated that his interest had been piqued.
As Chain’s shuttle left Mercury behind, he knew he would never visit this world again. He thought of the thousands of lives he had just saved. Of course millions more were doomed. Was there more he could have done for them? His plans focused on the technology now being assembled for export from Mercury. That technology would change the course of history and, in the long run, save far more lives than the millions he had abandoned to their fate.