Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(13)By: John Michael Hileman
"I believed in Humphrey. Even when my father died, I believed there was a higher purpose, a purpose even the Ten didn’t understand. But then when my mother and sister died in the war my faith was shaken. I began to wonder if the God of the gods had his own god. I wondered if it went on forever in a chain, like some sick joke. I wondered if there was anyone, God or man who knew the answers to the universe. These past few years the only thing that's kept me sane is my devotion to Vrin’s purity. I thought if I could stop the Ten perhaps I could break the chain and restore understanding.” She put her head in her hands. “But I guess I won’t get that chance if Gaza’s going to destroy us. We'll be returned to the cosmos and the chain will continue.”
“Not if I can help it.”
She looked up. “I don’t think you can stop him. From the stories Humphrey told me as a child Gaza is extremely powerful. Humphrey called him the blind genius.” She offered me a lackluster smile. “He could build a human but lacked the ability to understand his own creation. Old Humphrey said that he himself was no intellectual slouch but he couldn’t even begin to understand the mechanics of the human brain. He could create the shell of life from the web but there would be no substance.”
Any one of us could have created the shell of a handgun but without the knowledge of its inner workings, it would be useless.Like the handgun, I thought.
“Humphrey said the body was almost as complex as the spirit. Humphrey is a master of the spirit. Gaza could never best him in that. But I’m afraid to say Gaza is the master of creation and who better to destroy this world than the one who created it?”
All this talk of Gaza made me anxious to continue my research with the web. “Yes, who better. --Well, it’s getting late. Why don’t you get some sleep. We have a long ride tomorrow.”
“But I want to talk some more.”
“I’m enjoying our conversation as well but you need to be rested. There’s no telling when Gaza will strike. We should have plenty of time to continue our conversation on the way to Humphrey’s.”
She gave in grudgingly and crawled into her sleeping bag.
Silently the three moons floated in the sky. Their soft blue light permeated the landscape. They were truly breathtaking to behold-- and yet, I felt a certain sadness.
Their light removed the stars.
I missed the stars.
WHISPERS FROM THE VOID
As soon as I was sure Thana was asleep I brought up the web. Slowly and quietly I walked around the outskirts of our encampment, setting a trip wire a few inches off the ground; in case there was trouble while I was gone. The other end I attached to my wrist. I didn’t go far, just far enough to be out of sight in case she awoke. It wouldn't look good if she caught me waving my hands around and mumbling to myself.
I settled in and crossed my legs. The web glowed lightly against the night as I reached out and plucked a strand. With my mind I stretched the thread until the moving area was once again visible. Black translucent letters flowed by like blood in a vein. I studied the odd script. It was indeed what I had thought, modified machine code. Innately I understood it. mmc was an advanced computer language specifically designed for scientific research. But why would such a code be present in these threads? It didn’t make sense. If this was a computer generated environment, it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was far too real.
I examined the code for several hours trying to figure out the purpose of the programming. If I focused I could make the text move by faster. Each time I reached the end, there was a space, then the code started over from the beginning. I could string the pieces together easily but it was an enormous program and each time I read it, it grew. It was continually growing and adapting, as if it were alive.
Then suddenly, I realized something. It was acting like the cognosphere! It was storing data, keeping track of variables, watching, and learning. This program controlled the flow of information about this world. Every detail was on record. Every action was being observed and reactions were being applied.
If I were to throw a ball the program would figure out how far the ball would fly, its speed and velocity, and what laws of nature would have to be applied to it. The program would regulate the ball’s response to my application and the cognosphere would store the results so the next person going by would find the ball lying on the ground. Every person on this planet, the Ten included, were continually writing the program. And it was Gaza who had designed the program. I looked up.
Gaza isn’t a god! He’s a programmer!
I stood. My legs were cramping from sitting too long. My mind was on fire weeding through the possibilities of this new information. How much did Gaza know? Was he responsible for bringing me here? Were the people of this world computer simulations, or were they real? Where did the woman and child fit into it? What type of environment was this that the computer could keep track of it? It wasn’t virtual reality, at least not like any I was aware of. It was far beyond any technology I’d ever seen. Somehow I felt sure of this.
I sat back down and quickly started a search for my own essence. If I could find myself in the program, then perhaps Gaza could find me too. This made me uneasy. As I searched, a character on the page caught my attention. It represented a sub-directory and was classified as ‘created items’. Perhaps I could find the cup of tea I had created at Kitaya’s.
I opened the directory into a thread of its own and the contents scrolled before me. It contained everything that had ever been created from the beginning of Vrin to the present time. Unbelievable! Laid out before me was creation itself!
Each item had a sub-directory, containing every detail, right down to its smell. I could change anything in Vrin without even being present with it. I shuddered. With a thought I could erase any of the items that lay before me. It was too much to comprehend.
I continued looking for my essence in the program but after an exhaustive search I gave up; the program was immense, with far too many sub-directories. It would take a lifetime to follow all the paths. This realization brought me comfort for it would be a monumental task, even for its creator, to track anything in a program this vast.
My mind was filled to capacity and I was about to quit for the night-- when something caught my eye. A peculiar entry moved up the thread. A new line. Someone must have just added it. I examined it closely. It was nothing like the other entries-- It was complete gibberish. I studied it for a moment then suddenly realized, it wasn’t gibberish! It was backwards! I reversed the line and decoded the statement. Much to my astonishment, it wasn’t a program line at all but a message. It read, “Test 4:12 pm: Robert, can you see this?”
I stared at it. Should I try to answer? Maybe the sender would be able to shed some light on things. The message included the time. I recognized the format, from the world just on the other side of my memory. Perhaps if I could make contact I could find some answers.
I focused my concentration on the strand. Just as I could apply textures to threaded structures I was sure I could apply text to the program. Sure enough it responded. On the thread before me lay my words in: “Yes. I see it.”
I sat, staring at my words, wondering if the sender would see the reply, and wondering if I even wanted the answers to my questions. The text continued to scroll by for what seemed an eternity and I continued to watch. Every time it started a new loop I found the original message and decoded it. Each time I was disappointed. Until...
A buzz began emanating from one of the threads. I watched with curiosity as it twitched and hummed. Periodically the noise would fade and I could hear a faint voice mixed in with the chaotic signal. Someone was trying to communicate but the thread wasn’t amplifying the sound properly. I wasn’t sure if this would help but I clamped the thread on either end and pulled it taut. As I suspected the act of tightening caused the buzzing to fade and the voice became clearer. It was a masculine voice. “Marker test twenty-eight. Can you hear this?” Pause. “Marker test twenty-nine. Can you hear this?” Another pause.
I smiled. The owner of the voice didn’t realize he had gotten through.
“Marker test thirty. Can you hear this?”
“Yes,” I responded. This was no time to play games.
“Oh my God! Robert! You did it! Hold on! Dr. Solomon is on his way.”
“Who am I, and what is this place?”
“I’m sorry. I’m not authorized to give you any information. Dr. Solomon will be here any second.” He sounded nervous.
“Well can you at least tell me who you are?”
“Although I don’t see how it can hurt I have to follow protocol. I’m very sorry.”
I was getting annoyed.
He’ll be here in a minute. Are you in any pain or discomfort?”
“Are you in any danger?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Then we are doing just fine.”
“Right-- I guess that depends on your interpretation of just fine.”
“Here he is!”
There was a short silence, then another man began to speak. “Hello, Robert. Remember me?” His voice sounded familiar.
“My memory is a little scattered but I think I recognize your voice, although I don’t remember from where.”