Shards, Part 1 of Alien Artifacts lore series will introduce you to the universe of the Alien Artifacts. You will witness the various facets of this world, its heroes and the events that take place during the monumental shift in humanity’s history. A shift that was initiated by the discovery of an alien race: its creations, technologies, architecture and philosophy.
Chapter 4: Peace and thought, brother
Sienna, long-voyage freighter, Episcopate
Taeir took a deep breath, opened his eyes and reached his hand out to Meag. They connected with the tips of their fingers and drifted higher, to the center of the cabin, so that they could revolve freely in the zero-g. They evened their breathing and synchronized their rotation. They were ready for The Transmission.
Peace and thought, brother. Look who came back from their Deepening Voyage – it was Eric, his best friend, cradling his two children in his arms. He must have gotten them back after their half-year formative journey, the first in their six-year life.
-I’m so glad! – Taeir ruffled the hair of one of the twins – How did it go, boys? Proud of your voyage?
– Yeah, it was great! And Mario passed his exams and he received an official blessing! Yeah, the one with official Announcement during the Congregation!
– That’s great! Which one exactly? – Taeir was bursting with pride almost as much as the boys’ father.
– Bio-engineering of the zero-g state – the boys recited in unison…
– Peace and thought, brothers and sisters. Accept the news from the Core, for there is but one Universe and countless universes to be joined as one – They knew Preacher Ruffio very well, although they never have met him in any other way than through the Transmission. Ruffio was a middleman between them and the Core that – due to the distance from the nearest Relay – was beyond their reach.
The Preacher touched his fingertips to theirs and began his transmission.
– Vala, the first-born of Eamre and Jason was born in the Reptilion System – they stood next to parents and relatives, similar to relatives themselves, just beside the white, soft crib with the carefully wrapped newborn resting inside. The little one was asleep, holding her hands to her chin. Everyone exchanged a warm hug, while the child’s mother positively beamed with joy.
Although tens of thousands of children were probably born across Episcopate’s worlds since the last Transmission, Taeir still valued the tradition of contacting a randomly chosen family. Nothing built a bond as strong as taking part in the miracle of birth. Except perhaps, the miracle of death.
Accept the gift from the Rebirth shipyard, for our probes have gathered more details about the regions where your journey is headed. –the deacon welcomed them wearing the robes that bore the marks of the orbital shipyard that served as technical support for their ship – The Zone PT-44 was assigned an orange status. Nominal power supplied to the shields may not be enough to pass through it safely. Course updates and correcti…- deacon’s figure froze mid-word, with his hand extended for a customary touch. For two or three seconds Taeir saw two identical figures before they once again fused into one person that started again – Accept the gift from the Rebirth shipyard, for our probes have…
The interference did not re-occur and Taeir and Maeg received the full packet of instructions and updates.
– The bishop of the planet Verro stands accused before the Collective. Gather now to render judgment.
The duties of the community’s assessor meant presiding over the cases and proceedings even while on long voyages such as the one he was partaking in now. He joined to those already gathered – the judge, the accused and his defenders, along with two dozens of other assessors, gathered within the Transmission from several worlds. He touched his fingertips to those of the defender’s, glanced on the financial report, made a sympathetic gesture towards Tamara, the bishop’s abandoned wife and then opened himself to the police reports and expert’s statements. A blink of an eye later Taeir whispered the judgment formula
– The bishop of the planet Verro sinned against Reason with greed, adultery and lust… He could hear other assessors voices, most of them beginning with the same same words. The differences would come later – the punishment would be a resultant of all of their judgments.
Just before returning to his ship, he caught a glimpse of Olenna, his first pilot-wife from the previous century. They exchanged a smile and a shared memory – him and her, bathed together in scarlet and orange light of a star. “These were the old times” he though with a smile as he returned to Sienna.
– Peace and thought my young brothers and sisters – Taeir stood in a circle made of a dozen eight-year olds. This was the time of the testimony, the most efficient method of education. He kneeled to meet their eyes and spoke – Who better to explain the miracle of the Transmission than someone so distant and otherwise unreachable as I am now? Thanks to the Transmission we are all one people. With it, billions become as one. We can see each other – get to know each other, talk, hug and help each other if we need to! Though the Transmission creates another me for you, I am me. I am with you, even though I am very far away, piloting a ship at this very moment. Come, let me show you!
Everyone clasped their hands together and he took them to the cabin.
– This is Maeg
– Peace and thought, Maeg – the children called in unison, while woman answered with a smile.
The entire circle – the two of them and the children, started to rotate. It couldn’t have been their first time in zero-g – while the kids laughed and wiggled they were all still connected in one circle.
– Through the Transmission we never stop learning – about new people, fresh news, new knowledge. We invite others into our lives and joyously take part in the lives of others…-Taeir didn’t get to finish. In a flash the children disappeared as if snuffed out. The pilots were alone. The woman looked at him in surprise – her transmission must also have been interrupted. Not a second later the preacher returned to them
– The clashes in Emmerich are getting stronger. The Faithful have lost control over the northern orbits and are now struggling to maintain contact with the contingent on the surface – Taeir resisted the temptation to join in the war effort. Although with his position in the community he could join with those fighting – at least as a sympathetic observer – he worried that it might unbalance him and disrupt his scientific work. “I could have told the children that apart from knowing how to use the Transmission, you should when and who NOT to contact” he thought” – “Maybe next time…”
– Peace and thought, mom. I miss you.
– As I miss you, little one. As I miss you.
Taeir’s mother lived only within the Transmissions for almost sixty years. They even visited her grave on Maastrikt together a few times. He still saw her regularly, sometimes of his initiative and at times – of hers.
Maeg grabbed him with her other hand. Though their meetings took place simultaneously and he was an arm’s length away from her transmissions, he rarely took part in them, completely absorbed by his singularities. Now he joined her Transmission – they sat together in a bright, plant-filled pavilion, alone except for the two of them. The music reached them from everywhere, surrounding them with sound but also with the minute vibrations of the ground and the air moving against naked skin. Maeg was composing a synth-sense symphony and wanted him to be its first recipient and critic; it was very important to her that he hears it before anyone else. He was touched with the piece and with her closeness and was certain that this moment would be stored within the Transmission, enriching the symphony with their sense of intimacy.
– You can expect a rather cool welcome. The colony has been under a strict resource rationing for almost a year now. You will be demanding additional activity from people that barely remember what a decent shower is. And no, that’s not me saying there is anything wrong with their hygiene – Emmanuel, the angel of his mission, tried once again to get him to modify mission parameters. The Transmission took their conversation to the dock of the Uruba station, within the colony that Taeir and Maeg were headed to. They could see the gray, gaunt and less-than-friendly faces of the colonists, none of whom were trying to join their Transmission. Not that it mattered too much – he knew them, Transmitted with them for many hours and the whole colony knew that his visit had little to do with what the colony needed.
He was suddenly caught in a steel grip and yanked out of the station. He felt terrible pain as his Transmitted body passed through the structure and barely managed to fight off the feeling of panic as he found himself speeding through the half-vacuum of the moon on which the colony was situated. He sped on farther and farther away from the surface, incapable of a smallest movement.
He wanted to end the Transmission and return to the ship – he knew after all that outside of the Transmission he is on board of Sienna. Something stopped him tough. He kept moving with incredible speed as the stars passed around him on the firmament. He concentrated his entire willpower on not losing his mind or drifting into depths of panic. -Taeir! – he heard Maeg shout and then lost contact with her. All that was left was a terrible cold in his fingertips and loneliness. Loneliness in the Transmission, a thing created as a device for experiencing true community. He was lonely like never before. He wanted to curl up and call on anyone – Maeg, the preacher, his mother – he wanted to at least close his eyes – and he could not. He sped along at a pace of a comet while being completely still at the same time. He could see the skyline, while at the same time looking into the void. His loneliness chocked him, though at the same time he could hear something akin to a whisper? Song? Prayer? He could barely hear someone speaking, just a bit too quiet to be able to make out words, melody or the message. The pressure – on his head, arms, his whole body – intensified. The vision shattered and drifted away like so many grains of sand. Taeir felt his consciousness slipping away. Or perhaps he felt death.
– Taeir! – Maeg called – Taeir!
He was back on the ship. In her arms. With her. And a whole group of the faithful, worried for his state. A doctor was checking up on him. Mother kept stroking his hair. Nearby, waiting his turn, stood Romini, his psychologist and a friend from the seminary. He noticed a group of figures bent over the AI fountain – they weren’t paying attention to him, completely absorbed by the data from the ship’s sensor array.
– What happened? – he asked weakly, directing his question at them.
– We flew into a stream of something that interfered with the Transmission… – Maeg answered him. – I managed to disconnect, but you got caught in it.
– I…I was all alone… – he whispered
Only now did one of the faithful from the fountain turn around to face him. His robe shone with the sigils of a deacon of the archeological service. He sent Taeir a worried glance.
– We know. We were there with you. Each of us lived through your loneliness and your suffering. Peace be with you, faithful. – he turned to everyone. I will return your dear one in but a moment. But first, I need to speak to him.
The guests started leaving the Transmission. Some sent him a nod, others encouraged him with an embrace, his mother stroked his cheek for a moment. Soon the deacon was the only one left. He spread its waters wide so that they displayed a picture big enough for everyone in the cabin.
– We managed to pinpoint the source of the signal – he looked to the pilots – We are changing your mission. You will not reach the colony, at least not yet. The Collective wishes you to go there.
The fountain displayed the coordinates and a visualization of the system. Taeir felt a shade of that powerlessness along with a pang of fear, but he nodded his assent.
Written by Rafał Szyma
English translation by Danai Chondrokouki